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Key takeaways

  • An Election Laws (Amendment) Bill 2021 asking to link voter ID cards with Aadhar card by the Lok Sabha on 20th December 2021.
  • The main purpose of the bill is to establish the identity of a person.
  • the bill will eliminate multiple entries during the time of election by cleansing the election system.
  • The bill was passed though there was opposition on various grounds.
  • The opposition argued on basis of two grounds. First- bill passed is violative of the judgment passed by Hon’ble Supreme Court. And second- it is beyond the legislative competence of the house.
  • After Lok Sabha passed the bill, it was approved by Rajya Sabha on 21st December 2021 through a voice vote though the opposition walked out.

INTRODUCTION

On 20th December, 2021, the Lok Sabha passed the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill 2021 asking to link voter ID cards with Aadhar card. This bill was passed in a voice vote by Law Minister Kiren Rijiju.

The minister said that the standing committee of Law and Personal already recommended various proposals which are part of the bill.Full debate could not be done as demanded by the government because there was uproar in the house.The minister said that the bill will eliminate multiple entries during the time of election by cleansing the election system.

The main purpose of the bill is to establish the identity of a person. It will allow the electoral registration officers to view Aadhar number of people who want to get registered as voters.

FURTHER DETAILS

  • It was said by the minister that the bill is gender neutral and also has four qualifying dates for entry in the electoral roll, which is qualifying with the ruling passed by Hon’ble Supreme Court.
  • It was appealed in the Hon’ble Supreme Court to carry out an amendment in rules to only allow linking of voting cards to the Aadhar card.
  • The motive behind this was to check the alluring effects of duplicate and bogus voting at the time of elections.
  • However the court declined to entertain this plea.
  • So, the bench comprising of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, justice Sanjiv Khanna and S Abdul Nazeer, asked the BJP leader (Ashwini Kumar) and advocate of petitioner to connect with Election Commission believing that they will pass a reliable order on this plea.
  • It was suggested to the petitioners to approach the poll panel and if not satisfied, they can approach the court again.
  • So Mr. Upadhyay (advocate for the BJP leader), in his plea , requested the Election Commission for taking reliable steps for linking the election ID card to the Aadhar card.
  • The reason behind this was to diminish fake, duplicate and fabricated votes in spirit of section 62 of Representation of People Act,1951, (it states that a person cannot register in electoral roll more than once for any constituency).
  • Mr Upadhyay also said that the Election Commission should take accurate steps to apply “Aadhar based Election voting system” to make sure that maximum youth participate.
  • Coming to the reason for passing the bill,
  • It will give permission to the electoral officers to ask Aadhar number from persons already included in the electoral roll for purpose of authentication, and to check if the same person has enrolled in more than one constituency or if the person has enrolled more than once in the same constituency.
  • The bill also states that for incapacity of an individual to provide or intimate Aadhaar number owing to such adequate cause as may be stipulated, no application for inclusion of name in the electoral roll shall be refused, and no entries in the electoral roll shall be erased. Such individuals will be permitted to provide any other alternative documentation that may be required.
  • The bill which was circulated to Lok Sabha members stated that various sections will be amended from “Representation of the People Act”(RP Act).

REASON OF THE BILL AND STATEMENT OF OBJECT

  • To combat the threat of duplicate enrolment of the same individual in various areas, Section 23 of the RP Act will be changed to facilitate integration of electoral roll data with the Aadhaar ecosystem.
  • The RP Act's Section 14 will be amended to provide for four "qualifying" days for eligible persons to register to vote.
  • January 1 of every year will be the qualifying date as per now.
  • Individuals who turn 18 on or before January 1 are eligible to vote. Those who reach 18 after that must wait a whole year to register to vote.
  • The qualifying dates for the production or modification of electoral rolls will henceforth be the first day of January, the first day of April, the first day of July, and the first day of October of a calendar year.
  • Sections 20 and 60 of the RP Act, 1950 and 1951, respectively, will be amended to make elections gender-neutral for service voters.
  • The change will also help to replace the word "wife" with "spouse," making the laws "gender neutral."
  • According to electoral legislation, an Army man’s wife is eligible to register as a service voter, while a woman Army officer's spouse is not. This will change once the term "wife" is replaced by "spouse."

OPPOSITION IN THE ORDER PASSED

  • The bill was passed though there was continuous protest by the opposition on various issues.
  • The opposition argued on basis of two grounds. First- bill passed is violative of the judgment passed by Hon’ble Supreme Court. And second- it is beyond the legislative competence of the house.
  • Members from opposition demanded the bill to be referred to a parliamentary panel for scrutiny.
  • Congress leader Supriya Sule and Adhir Ranjan wondered about the urgency in pushing the bill in hurry by the government.
  • The members from opposition suggested to have a public opinion on this.
  • The law was opposed by opposition groups led by Congress, who said it would infringe on citizens' basic rights. They also claimed that the bill would be in violation of the Supreme Court's Aadhaar decision, and urged that it be referred to a Standing Committee.
  • If Aadhaar is linked to election records, the Opposition claims, it will be a breach of individuals' constitutional rights as well as their right to privacy. The Bill's reversal was sought by the opposition.

BILL APPROVED BY RAJYA SABHA

  • After Lok Sabha passed the bill, it was approved by Rajya Sabha on 21st December 2021 through a voice vote though the opposition walked out.
  • it was approved because it got support from the members of BJP, TMC-M, BJD, JD(U), YSRCP AND AIADMK.
  • They said that it will help in detecting fake and duplicate voters from the electoral rolls.
  • Mallikarjun Khagre, member from opposition said that the bill was passed without any discussion or debate and he called this “mockery of democracy”.
  • He said that The Election Laws 2021 Amendment Bill was passed by the Modi government without debate or discussion. The law violates the Puttaswamy decision of the Supreme Court and would result in wholesale disenfranchisement. How can it be approved without debate or scrutiny?
  • In the Puttuswamy case, the right to privacy is a constitutionally protected right in India, according to a nine-judge panel of the Supreme Court of India, and it is ancillary to other liberties provided by the Indian Constitution.

CONCLUSION

On 22nd December 2021, the centre gave explanation that how these reforms will benefit the electoral system.According to sources familiar with the legislation's drafting, registration in electoral rolls is based on an application by a person who is entitled to be registered as a voter. A clause in the law allows new applicants to voluntarily disclose their Aadhaar number with their application for the purpose of proving their identity.

According to the persons quoted, no application would be refused because an Aadhaar number has not been submitted, as Union law minister Kiren Rijiju stated following the bill's approval in the Lok Sabha on December 20, 2021.They said that by connecting Aadhaar to the electoral record, they would be able to identify repeated enrolments of the same individual in different areas. They further stated that once Aadhaar is linked, the electoral roll data system will immediately flag the presence of prior registration anytime someone seeks for fresh registration.

This will go a long way toward clearing up the electoral roll and allowing voters to register in their 'normally resident' place.


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