Bill to link voter ID, Aadhaar card passed in Lok Sabha amid Opposition uproar

The Bill also seeks to make the statutes gender neutral by substituting the term 'wife' with 'spouse' to allow husbands of service voters to cast their vote from the place where their wives are posted

Press Trust of India December 21, 2021 08:39:08 IST
Bill to link voter ID, Aadhaar card passed in Lok Sabha amid Opposition uproar

File image of the Lok Sabha. PTI

New Delhi: A Bill to link electoral roll data with Aadhaar ecosystem and bring other poll reforms was passed by Lok Sabha on Monday after a brief debate and amid demand by the Opposition to refer it to a standing committee.

The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill 2021, piloted by Law Minister Kiren Rijiju, was passed by a voice vote with Opposition members claiming that the move to link electoral roll with Aadhaar number would violate privacy and could even allow non-citizens to vote.

"So, if you are in a position where you are asking Aadhaar for voters, all you are getting is a document that reflects residence. It does not reflect any proof of citizenship. Therefore, you are potentially giving the right to vote to non-citizens," Congress member Shashi Tharoor said in Lok Sabha.

Besides linking electoral roll to Aadhaar, the Bill also seeks to make the statutes gender neutral by substituting the term 'wife' with 'spouse' to allow husbands of service voters to cast their vote from the place where their wives are posted. It also seeks to provide four qualifying dates — 1 January, 1 April, 1 July and 1 October — in a year for registration of voters, instead of a single qualifying date — 1 January.

The Bill was introduced after 12 noon and passed amid din by 15.10 pm. Opposition members slammed the government for rushing the bill through parliamentary process in a tearing hurry and demanded that it be referred to a standing committee.

In a statement, the CPI(M) Polit Bureau condemned the manner in which important changes in the electoral laws, which have far-reaching consequences, have been rushed through Lok Sabha and passed in a din.

Responding to Opposition concerns in Lok Sabha, the law minister said the Bill seeks to justify the Supreme Court judgement in the Puttaswamy case that defines the fundamental right to privacy.

Rijiju said the Bill justified all the conditions given in the judgement — permissible law, legitimate state interests, test of proportionality.

He said the Bill will help in weeding out multiple entries in the electoral rolls and ensure that a person is registered as a voter in one constituency and would eventually lead to clean elections.

On Aadhaar linkage, Rijiju said, "This is voluntary, not compulsory or mandatory."

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.

Rejecting the demand for referring the Bill to a panel, Rijiju said various proposals which are part of the Bill have already been suggested and recommended by the Standing Committee of Law and Personnel.

The minister further said that the Bill will cleanse the election system and eliminate multiple entries. He said the government wanted a full debate on the Bill but could not do so because of the uproar in the House.

BJP member Nishikant Dubey said the Congress and the Trinamool Congress were opposed to the Bill due to vote bank politics as they will not be able to make Bangladeshi and Nepali citizens voters in India. Certain remarks of Dubey on a Union minister who was earlier part of the poll panel and a former Lok Sabha member whose citizenship was under cloud were expunged by the Chair.

Most of the Opposition members demanded that the Bill may be referred to the standing committee for scrutiny and detailed deliberations.

Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and NCP member Supriya Sule wondered why this important Bill was being pushed in a tearing hurry by the government.

Many Opposition members suggested for garnering public opinion on such an important legislation. This is no way to pass a legislation and there should be a proper debate and discussion, said N K Premchandran of the RSP.

Others who opposed the Bill included Ritesh Pandey (BSP), Kalyan Banerjee (TMC), Asaduddin Owaisi (AIMIM) and E T Mohammed Basheer.

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