During the introduction and passage of the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill 2021 in Lok Sabha today, the Union Law Minister, Mr. Kiren Rijiju explained that there is certain disparities in the existing laws, hence the need for the introduction of the bill.
The Minister of Justice explained that there were “gaps in the existing legislation” which needed to be corrected. He explained that under current law there was only one qualifying date 1st January, despite the constitutional guarantee that anyone over the age of 18 can vote. In this regard, he explained, 4 qualifying dates have been introduced to allow people to vote. The Minister of Justice further explained that under the Representation of the People Act 1951, only the “wives” of military voters were allowed to vote. This created an anomaly where the husbands of female serving officers could not vote. To remedy this, the Minister of Justice explained that “wife” would be replaced by “spouse” to make the laws gender neutral.
On the controversial issue of Aadhaar-Voter ID link, Mr. Rijiju explained that there is a need to weed out fake voters from the voter rolls. He further explained that the provision relating to the link between the Aadhaar card and voter identification would be “not mandatory, only voluntary” in nature.
Members of Parliament expressed their opposition to the content of the bill and the way it was presented.
MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury questioned how the bill was passed by parliament. “The bill is introduced today, considered and passed today. Why are we in a hurry? We have asked that it be referred to the Standing Committee.”
MP Supriya Sule also questioned the “heartbreaking rush” to pass the bill.
It should be noted that the Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha today morning. It was only through supplementary notice that the bill was considered and passed today afternoon.
MP Sule asked why the government was rushing the bill through parliament without allowing detailed deliberation. Further, she asked, “If the minister wants electoral reforms, let him bring forward a comprehensive bill on women’s reserve, electoral obligations.”
MP NK Premchandran also objected to the way parliamentary procedures are not followed. “I object not only for constitutional reasons, but also the way it is passed. It is only presented today. Members do not have the opportunity to propose amendments.”
Earlier in the day, MP Manish Tewari had opposed the introduction of the bill and said that the Puttuswamy judgment and the Aadhaar Act failed to link the Aadhaar card to electoral law. “Voting is a legal right. Therefore, this bill is beyond the legislative competence of Aadhaar law,” he added.
MP Owaisi had also voiced his opposition to the bill saying that the bill will allow the government to profile and disenfranchise voters and “will end up violating the principles of secret ballot and universal suffrage for voters.” adults”.
MP Lavu Devarayalu, while voicing his opposition to the bill, pointed out that a similar seeding exercise conducted in Andhra Pradesh resulted in the disenfranchisement of 30 lakh voters. He further pointed out that it could become a tool in the hands of the government to examine citizens’ voting habits.
MP Shashi Tharoor also pointed out that Aadhaar was only meant to be proof of residency and not citizenship. Further, he asked, when only citizens are allowed to vote, how the link between Aadhaar and the voter rolls would serve to weed out our bogus voters.
The Union Law Minister countered the objection by telling the House that a standing committee of Parliament had already “unanimously recommended” the provisions. He further said that linking Aadhaar to voter rolls would “reduce electoral malfeasance”.
Against the specific argument of the opposition members that the link between Aadhaar and the voter lists would violate the Puttuswamy judgment, the Minister of Justice explained that all the conditions set out in the judgment – permissible law, legitimate interests of the State, proportionality test – are met in this case. Case.
“There is an authorized law… The legitimate interest of the State is there because Article 17 of the RPA says that no one has the right to be registered in more than one constituency… On the proportionality test…this provision is in the interest of the voter, the country and the interest of free and fair elections,” he said.
The House considered the bill at 2:45 p.m. and at 3:15 p.m. the House passed the bill by voice vote.