New Delhi: The Election Commission of India's plan to ensure that young citizens are registered as voters as soon as they turn 18 has run into difficulties as the Attorney General has opined that the move to have multiple cut-off dates contradicts provisions of the Constitution.
The EC had earlier this year told the government that the January 1 cut-off date set for the purpose deprives several youths from participating in the electoral exercise.
The Law Ministry had opposed the move, but following EC's persistent demands, it had referred the matter to Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi for his opinion.
Rohatgi is learnt to have supported the view of the Law Ministry that the move to have multiple cut off dates ‘contradicts' Article 326 of the Constitution and to have such a system is not practical.
The EC, which had initially raised the issue earlier this year, brought up the matter again with the Law Ministry after the Narendra Modi government assumed power.
The Law Ministry is the administrative ministry for the Election Commission. According to the EC guidelines on enrolment of voters, for an election to be held in a particular year, only an individual who has attained the age of 18 years as on January 1 of that year is eligible to be enrolled in the voters' list.
"As a result, if a person is becoming 18 years on January 2, he cannot be registered. Therefore, a person who is turning 18 beyond January 1 will have to wait for next year to get registered. In case elections are taking place subsequently, they will have to wait for a longer period," Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi had said when the proposal was moved.
But according to the Law Ministry, a change in rules or even an amendment to the Representation of the People Act will not help. Article 326 states that every person who is a citizen of India and who is not less than 18 of age on such ‘date' as may be fixed in that behalf by or under any law made by the appropriate legislature shall be entitled to be registered as a voter at any such election.
"The elections to the House of the People and to the Legislative Assembly of every State shall be on the basis of adult suffrage; but is to say, every person who is a citizen of India and who is not less than twenty one years of age on such date as may be fixed in that behalf by or under any law made by the appropriate legislature...," says Article 326.
A proposal made in the early 1970s had suggested multiple cut off dates of January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 for those attaining the required age to register as voters. But the proposal could not take off. 1.27 crore new voters in the age group of 18-19 years have been registered recently.