Election Laws (Amendment Bill) 2021

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    • Recently, the Centre introduced the Election Laws (Amendment Bill) 2021 to link voter identity and Aadhaar cards, despite objections by the Opposition parties over the move.

    About 

    • The Bill amends the Representation of the People Act, 1950 and the Representation of the People Act, 1951 to implement certain electoral reforms.
      • The 1950 Act provides for the allocation of seats and delimitation of constituencies for elections, qualifications of voters, and preparation of electoral rolls.  
      • The 1951 Act provides for the conduct of elections and offences and disputes related to elections.

    Key Features of the Bill 

    • Linking electoral roll data with Aadhaar: 
      • The Bill adds that the electoral registration officer may require a person to furnish their Aadhaar number for establishing their identity.  
      • If their name is already in the electoral roll, then the Aadhaar number may be required for authentication of entries in the roll.  Persons will not be denied inclusion in the electoral roll or have their names deleted from the roll if they are unable to furnish the Aadhaar number due to sufficient cause as prescribed. 
    • Such persons may be permitted to furnish alternate documents prescribed by the central government.
    • Qualifying date for enrolment in electoral roll: 
      • Under the 1950 Act, the qualifying date for enrolment in the electoral roll is January 1 of the year in which such roll is being prepared or revised.  
      • This implies that a person who turns 18 (i.e., eligible to vote) after January 1 can enrol in the electoral roll only when the roll is prepared/ revised the next year.  
      • The Bill amends this to provide four qualifying dates in a calendar year, which will be January 1, April 1, July 1, and October 1.
    • Requisitioning of premises for election purposes: 
      • The 1951 Act permits the state government to requisition premises needed or likely to be needed for being used as polling stations, or for storing ballot boxes after a poll has been conducted.  
      • The Bill expands the purposes for which such premises can be requisitioned.  These include using the premises for counting, storage of voting machines and poll-related material, and accommodation of security forces and polling personnel.
    • Gender-neutral provisions: 
      • The 1950 Act permits certain persons who are ordinarily resident in a constituency to register in electoral rolls.  
      • Such persons include those holding a service qualification, such as members of the armed forces or central government employees posted outside India.  The wives of such persons are also deemed to be ordinarily residing in the same constituency if they reside with them.  The 1951 Act enables the wife of a person holding a service qualification to vote either in person or by postal ballot.  
      • The Bill replaces the term ‘wife’ with ‘spouse’ in both Acts.   

    Significance

    • This will help in cleaning the electoral roll to a great extent. This will help in stopping bogus voting and fraudulent votes.
    •  It will also facilitate elector registration in the location at which they are ‘ordinarily resident’.

    Criticism 

    • This Bill has the danger of violating both secrecy of the vote undermining the principle of the secret ballot and the fundamental right to privacy of the voter. 
    • If the Bill becomes an Act, the government would be able to use the details for “disenfranchising some people and profiling the citizens”.
    • The Bill is outside the legislative competence of the House as it violates the limits on legislation set by the Supreme Court in its judgment (Puttaswamy vs Union of India)
      • The linking of voter IDs and Aadhaar violates the fundamental right to privacy as defined by the Supreme Court in the judgment.
    • The opposition parties want the bill to be sent to a standing committee. 

    Government’s Stand

    • The proposed linkage between the Aadhaar and election database is voluntary.
    • 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 numbers.

    Source: IE