On December 20, 2021, the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 was proposed in the Lok Sabha. The bill modifies the People’s Representation Act of 1950 and the People’s Representation Act of 1951 to enact various election reforms.
The 1950 Act regulates the distribution of seats and the delimitation of parliamentary constituencies, as well as voter qualifications and the creation of electoral rolls. The 1951 Act governs election procedures, as well as election-related offences and conflicts. Read on to learn more about the Election Laws Amendment Bill 2021.
The Election Laws Amendment Bill 2021 UPSC Key Points
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Linking Electoral Roll Data with Aadhaar
A person may request to the electoral registration officer for their name to be added to a constituency’s electoral roll under the 1950 Act. If the inspector is satisfied that the application is eligible for registration after validation, he will instruct that the individual’s name be included in the electoral roll.
The electoral registration official may ask for a person’s Aadhaar number to verify their identification, according to the bill. If the name is already on the voter rolls, the Aadhaar number may be necessary for the roll’s changes to be authenticated.
If a person is unable to provide an Aadhaar number owing to a legitimate reason, they shall not be refused inclusion in the voter rolls or have their names removed from the roll. Such individuals may be allowed to submit alternative documents as determined by the federal government.
Qualifying Date for Enrolment in Electoral Roll
The qualification date for registration in the voter rolls under the 1950 Act is January 1 of the year in which the voter registration is being created or amended. This means that an individual who turns 18 (i.e., becomes eligible to vote) after January 1st, can only register to vote when the voter roll is prepared or revised the following year. The Bill modifies this to include four qualifying dates in a single year: January 1, April 1, July 1, and October 1.
Requisitioning of Premises for Election Purposes
The 1951 Act allows the state government to seize property that is required or likely to be required for use as polling stations or for the storage of ballot boxes after a vote has been taken.
The bill broadens the types of premises that can be requisitioned. These include counting, storing voting equipment and polling-related materials, and housing security forces and polling-related staff.
The 1950 Act allows certain people who live in an area on a regular basis to register as voters. Those with a service qualification, such as soldiers of the military forces or central government officials stationed outside India, are examples of such people. If they live with them, their wives are likewise considered to be ordinarily dwelling in the same constituency.
The 1951 Act allows the wife of someone who holds a service qualification to vote in person or by paper vote. In both Acts, the Bill substitutes the terminology “wife” with “spouse.”
UPSC Notes on The Election Laws Amendment Bill 2021
The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021, proposes allowing electoral registry officers to ask for the Aadhaar digits of those who want to register as voters in order to verify their identification. The bill will be debated in the Rajya Sabha, India’s highest house, today.
The bill proposes allowing electoral registration officers to ask for Aadhaar numbers from persons who want to enrol as voters “for the purpose of establishing identity.”
It also aims to give electoral enrollment officers the ability to ask for Aadhaar numbers from “individuals already included in the voter rolls for the reasons of identity verification of entries in the voter rolls, and to recognise registration of the same individual’s name in the voter rolls of more than one electorate or more than once in the same electorate.”
“No application for inclusion of name in the electoral roll shall be denied, and no entries in the electoral roll shall be deleted because an individual is unable to give or intimate Aadhaar number due to such adequate cause as may be prescribed,” according to the amended bill. Such individuals will be permitted to provide any other alternative documentation that may be required.
The qualifying dates for the preparation or modification of voter rolls will now be “the first day of January, the first day of April, the first day of July, and the first day of October of a year.”
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.”
While, 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.
Meanwhile, the opposition has been attacking the government for its passage in the Lok Sabha. The opposition parties want the bill to be sent to a standing committee. Opposition parties must resolutely resist the electoral reforms Bill from being bulldozed in Rajya Sabha. Members of Parliament were not given time for discussion, the CPI(M) said in its statement.
The CPI(M) said in a statement that this Bill has the danger of violating both secrecy of the vote undermining the principle of secret ballot and the fundamental right to privacy of the voter. The politburo of the CPI(M) have 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, it noted.
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