Lok Sabha today passed the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill 2021 that seeks to link electoral roll data with the Aadhaar ecosystem through a voice vote. The bill was piloted by Law Minister Kiren Rijiju and was passed after a brief discussion during which some opposition members demanded that it be referred to a parliamentary panel. Rijiju said various proposals which are part of the bill have already been suggested and recommended by the Standing Committee of Law and Personnel and the bill is aimed at cleansing the election system.
What is Election Laws (Amendment) Bill 2021?
The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 seeks to empower electoral officers to seek Aadhaar number of people, who want to register as voters, for establishing their identity. It also seeks to allow the electoral registration officers to ask for Aadhaar numbers from “persons already included in the electoral roll for the purposes of authentication of entries in the electoral roll, and to identify registration of the name of the same person in the electoral roll of more than one constituency or more than once in the same constituency”.
Speaking on the bill, Rijiju said that linking Aadhaar with voter ID will be voluntary. The amendment bill makes it clear that “no application for inclusion of name in the electoral roll shall be denied and no entries in the electoral roll shall be deleted for the inability of an individual to furnish or intimate Aadhaar number due to such sufficient cause as may be prescribed”. Such people will be allowed to furnish other documents as may be prescribed.
The bill also seeks to amend various sections of the Representation of the People Act, 1950 and 1951. The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the bill states that Section 23 of the RP Act, 1950 will be amended to allow linking of electoral roll data with the Aadhaar ecosystem to curb the menace of multiple enrolments of the same person in different places. Amendment to section 14 of the RP Act, 1950 will allow having four qualifying dates for eligible people to register as voters, instead of one that is January 1 at present. As of now, people who turn 18 on or before January 1 can register as voters but those turning 18 after January 1 wait for the whole year to get registered. The Bill proposes to make the 1st day of January, 1st day of April, 1st day of July, and 1st day of October as the qualifying dates.
An amendment to section 20 of the RP Act, 1950 and section 60 of the RP Act, 1951 seeks to make the elections gender-neutral for service voters. The amendment will also replace the word ‘wife’ with ‘spouse’ to make the statutes gender-neutral.