Who is an ‘Ordinarily Resident’?

According to Section 20 of the Representation of People Act, 1950, A person is said to be ordinarily resident in a place if he uses that place for sleeping. He need not be eating in that place and may be eating from a place outside.

Temporary periods of absence from this ordinary place of stay can be ignored. It is not necessary that the period of stay should be continuous for any particular length of time and should be without any break. Temporary absence on account of duty or employment or even for pleasure should not be considered to interrupt the concept of ordinary residence.


It is purely a question of fact whether a person is ordinarily resident at a particular place or not. Mere absence for sometime will not deprive a person of the qualification of ordinary residence if he possesses the ability to return and has the intention to return to that place. Persons who have gone out of the country for business or employment should be treated as having moved out of that place.


Mere ownership or possession of a building or other immovable property will not bestow upon the owner, the residential qualification. On the other hand even persons living in sheds and persons living on pavements without any roof are eligible for enrolment provided they are ordinarily resident in the sheds or on pavements in a particular area, do not change the place of residence and are otherwise identifiable.


What are the exceptions to the general principle of Ordinarily Residence?

1)      Members of Parliament and the State Legislatures are entitled to be registered in their home constituencies notwithstanding the fact that they are away from their normal place of residence in connection with their activities as legislators.

2)      Inmates of jails, other legal custody, hospitals, beggar homes, asylums etc. should not be included in the electoral rolls of the constituency in which such institutions are located.

3)      Students, if otherwise eligible, living in a hostel or mess or lodge more or less continuously, going back to his normal home or place of residence only for short periods, can be held to be ordinarily resident in the place where the hostel or mess or lodge is situated. However, if they so wish, they have the option of retaining their enrollment at their residence with their parents instead. [During intensive revision, students shall not be enumerated at their hostels. They can be enrolled subsequently on application in Form 6 with bonafide student and hostel resident certificate].

4)      Service Voters: Normally, the serving members of the armed forces of the Union or the central para-military forces, i.e. BSF, CRPF, CISF, ITBP, NSG,GREF and Assam Rifles to which provisions of Army Act, 1950 have been made applicable (with or without modification), State Armed Police personnel posted outside the state, and the government servants posted outside India in Indian Missions/High Commissions are enrolled in their native places and not at their places of postings. They are called ‘Service Voters’. Thus electors having a service qualification are entitled to get registered at their native places which maybe different from their ordinary residence.

The wife of a service voter if she ordinarily resides with her husband is also entitled to get registered in the last part of the electoral roll with her husband. But this is not available to the husband of a female service voter.

5)      Overseas Electors: Under Section-20A of the Representation of the People Act, 1950, inserted vide Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, 2010, which has come into force w.e.f. 10th February, 2011, every overseas elector, i.e., an Indian citizen who is absenting from his place of ordinary residence in India owing to employment, education or otherwise, and has not acquired citizenship of any other country and who is not included in the electoral roll, is entitled to have his/her name registered in the electoral roll of the constituency in which his/her place of residence in India as mentioned in his/her passport is located.


In terms of rule 8A of the Registration of Electors Rules, 1960, every overseas elector whose place of residence in India is located in the States/Union Territories of India, who has completed 18 years of age as the qualifying date, and is desirous of registering his/her name in the electoral roll, can submit a claim application in Form-6A along with supporting documents for registration in the electoral roll of the constituency in which his/her place of residence as shown in the passport is located.


Source: This information is an extract from the ‘Hand Book for Electoral Registration Officers- Election Commission of India – 2012’