What is Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021? Check details here
Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju Monday introduced the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 in Lok Sabha, which seeks to link electoral rolls with the Aadhaar ecosystem to wipe out duplication. Passed in Lok Sabha, the bill will end bogus voting and make electoral process more credible, Rijiju said in Parliament. However, Opposition parties opposed the bill, saying it would infringe on citizens' fundamental rights.
Why does it matter?
- The bill is considered an attempt to reform the electoral process in India by amending the Representation of the People Act, 1950, and the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
- However, the provision linking Aadhaar numbers to voter IDs has been particularly contentious and has seen opposition from civil society and Opposition parties.
- The contentious provision also raises questions about individual privacy.
What do we know about the bill?
The bill proposes an amendment of Section 23 of the Representation of People Act, 1950 to link Aadhaar with the electoral roll. It also allows electoral registration officers to seek the Aadhaar number of people who want to register as voters "for the purpose of establishing the identity." Furthermore, it allows voters to register four times a year, instead of just once.
'No deletions on failure to furnish Aadhaar'
However, the bill has a provision that no names shall be denied inclusion in the electoral roll or no names shall be deleted if someone fails to furnish their Aadhaar number due to "sufficient causes." In such cases, they will have to furnish "alternate" documents.
Bill seeks to make RP Act gender-neutral
In an attempt to make the RP Act 1950 and 1951 gender-neutral, the bill seeks to substitute the word "wife" with the word "spouse." It also seeks to enable the requisition of premises for the purpose of being polling stations, counting, storage of ballot boxes, voting machines, and poll-related materials by proposing a change to Section 160 of the RP Act, 1951.
Bill in line with long-sought electoral reforms: Centre
In the drafts and objective section of the bill, the Centre stated that the bill is in line with various proposals for electoral reforms it had received from different quarters. "The electoral reform is an ongoing and continuous process. The central government has been receiving proposals for electoral reforms from various quarters, from time to time, including the Election Commission of India," it said.
Why is the Opposition protesting?
Opposition parties are protesting against the bill saying it will violate the fundamental rights of citizens. They also argued that the bill would violate the Supreme Court judgment on Aadhaar. Opposing the bill, Congress leader Manish Tiwari said it was beyond the legislative capabilities. AIMIM's Asaduddin Owaisi also opposed the bill saying it violates citizens' privacy.
'Bill will give vote to non-citizens'
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor also pointed out that Aadhaar is a proof of residence and not citizenship. Thus, linking Aadhaar with the electoral roll would potentially mean "giving the vote to non-citizens," he argued.