The Rajya Sabha on Tuesday passed the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 by a voice vote amid continued protests. The Opposition staged a walkout after unsuccessfully campaigning to refer the election amendment bill to the parliamentary panel for further scrutiny.
The new bill, which was passed in the Lok Sabha yesterday, seeks to link one's Aadhar card with their Voter ID.
Bill will weed out duplicate voters: Centre
The Centre primarily defended the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 on the grounds that it would weed out duplicate voters from electoral rolls. The government stressed that this is a purely "voluntary" exercise and is not mandatory.
BJP MP Sushil Modi, hailing from Bihar, pointed out that the Opposition members who were part of the parliamentary standing committee were now opposing the very provisions they had demanded. Modi added that Congress and TMC leaders were now opposing the bill because they allegedly registered and won on the heels of bogus voters.
"In Bengal, TMC won because of bogus voters list, if voter card is linked to Aadhar, then lakhs of bogus names will be deleted, they fear this. They are opposing this to save their vote bank," he alleged.
"Your opposition has no basis," Law Minister Kiren Rijiju told Opposition members. The poll panel and the Centre met on several occasions where concerns over multiple entry of voters and a lack of a mechanism to deal with this were addressed, he added. "Election process can only be cleansed if the voters' list is clean," Rijiju. "Only those who use bogus voters list will oppose this bill because it will remove duplicate entry," he added.
Among other things, the bill allows electoral officers to ask applicants their Aadhar number to establish their identity at the time of registration as a vote. Existing voters can also be asked to furnish their Aadhar card for the purpose of identification.
However, the amended bill clarified 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."
The bill sought to amend various provisions of the Representation of People's Act, 1950 and the Representation of People's Act, 1951 to include additional qualifying dates for voter registration. Presently, only those who turn 18 years of age (or higher) as on or after January 1 of the year are eligible to register as voters. Under the amended act, three more qualifying dates have been rolled out: April 1, July 1, and October 1. This, the Centre said would lead to an increase in the enrollment of eligible voters.
The bill also proposed to replace the word wife with "spouse" to make the provisions of the RP Act more gender-neutral.
Bill violates privacy rights: Opposition
The Opposition vociferously debated the bill and staged a walkout when they failed to convince the house. TMC MP Derek O' Brien opposed the bill calling it "bogus" adding that he would need "at least 10 hours to discuss its demerits". Congress MP Ami Yagnik said the bill violated privacy rights granted by the Constitution of India; would disenfranchise many voters; and would be disadvantageous.
SP MP Ram Gopal added that people from the marginalized society who did not have Aadhar cards would be excluded and sought the passage of the bill on a day when the 12 suspended members are present.