A bill on electoral reforms which seeks to link electoral rolls (Voter IDs) with the Aadhaar ecosystem to weed out duplicacy, was passed in Lok Sabha on Monday amid protest by the Opposition MPs. Rajendra Agarwal, who was in the chair, accepted the introduction of The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021, in the morning after taking voice votes. However, the House was adjourned till 2 pm as opposition MPs continues their protest over various issues.
Opposing the bill, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said that Aadhaar only meant to be proof of residence, it's not proof of citizenship. "If you are in a position asking Aadhaar for voters, all you are getting is a document that reflects residence, not citizenship. You are potentially giving the vote to non-citizens," he said.
"Aadhaar Act does not allow for Aadhar to be linked to electoral rolls. We demand rollback of the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill," Congress leader Manish Tewari said. AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi too opposed the introduction of the bill.
Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury demanded that the bill must be sent to the standing committee concerned for scrutiny. He claimed that the bill will curb the people's personal liberty. "We don't have the data protection laws. You can't bulldoze such a bill on people," he said.
AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi alleged that the bill will suppress people's right to exercise franchise freely. Opposing the bill, Trinamool Congress member Saugata Roy said the bill goes against the apex court judgement. BSP's Ritesh Pandey opposed the bill, and said that it will curb the rights of the SCs and STs in exercising the franchise freely. RSP's N K Premchandran said the right of privacy is a fundamental right and linking the Aadhaar with the election process will infringe on the rights of the citizens.
The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 seeks to allow electoral registration officers to seek Aadhaar number of people who want to register as voters 'for the purpose of establishing the identity'. The bill amends various sections of the Representation of the People Act, 1950 and 1951.
It also seeks to allow the electoral registration officers to ask for Aadhaar number from persons already included in the electoral roll for the purposes of authentication of entries in electoral roll, and to identify registration of name of the same person in the electoral roll of more than one constituency or more than once in the same constituency.
The 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 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 alternative documents as may be prescribed.
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 enrolment of the same person in different places".
Amendment to section 14 of the RP Act, 1950 will allow four "qualifying" dates for eligible people to register as voters. As of now, January 1 of every year is the sole qualifying date. People who turn 18 on or before January 1 can register as voters. Those turning 18 after that have to wait for one whole year to register as voters. Now, "the 1st day of January, 1st day of April, 1st day of July and 1st day of October in a calendar year" will be the qualifying dates in relation to the preparation or revision of electoral rolls.
Amendment to section 20 of the RP Act, 1950 and section 60 of the RP Act, 1951 will allow the elections to become gender neutral for service voters. The amendment will also help replace the word "wife" with the word "spouse" making the statutes "gender neutral". An Armyman's wife is entitled to be enrolled as a service voter, but a woman Army officer's husband is not, according to provisions in the electoral law. With "wife" being replaced by the term "spouse", this will change.
READ MORE: 'Violates fundamental right to privacy': Owaisi opposes proposal to link Aadhaar with Voter ID