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Home / India / Election Laws (Amendement) Bill: Centre denies lack of scrutiny

Election Laws (Amendement) Bill: Centre denies lack of scrutiny

Parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi and his junior Arjun Ram Meghwal told reporters that the bill was circulated among all MPs in advance
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge
File Picture

Our Special Correspondent   |   New Delhi   |   Published 23.12.21, 01:54 AM

The government on Wednesday rejected the Opposition allegation that the bill allowing Aadhaar-linking of the electoral rolls had been passed without discussion or scrutiny.

Parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi and his junior Arjun Ram Meghwal told reporters that the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill 2021, passed by the Lok Sabha on Monday and the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, had undergone parliamentary scrutiny and been circulated among MPs in advance.

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“The election bill idea came from the (parliamentary) standing committee. The Election Commission has also discussed this. Opposition parties should have read that,” Joshi said, answering reporters’ questions.

He was referring to the 101st report by the standing committee on law and justice, tabled in Parliament in March 2020, which had recommended that voter I-cards be linked to Aadhaar.

However, that panel’s mandate was to scrutinise parliamentary grants, and it had on its own made a recommendation for the Aadhaar-linking of electoral rolls. What the Opposition had demanded this week was the bill being sent to the panel with the specific mandate of scrutinising it.

The Opposition has also condemned the way the bill was passed by voice vote with hardly any discussion in either House.

Mallikarjun Kharge, leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, had on Tuesday tweeted: “Modi government passed Election Laws 2021 Amendment Bill without any discussion or debate. The Bill is in violation of SC Puttaswamy judgement and will lead to mass disenfranchisement. How can it be passed without any discussion or scrutiny?It’s a mockery of our democracy.”

Kharge was referring to a constitution bench verdict of August 2017 that affirmed that privacy was a fundamental right. The Opposition says the Aadhaar-linking of the voter list would violate privacy.

Another Supreme Court bench had in 2018 restricted mandatory Aadhaar-linking to government welfare schemes, income-tax returns and PAN.

The standing committee report of March 2020 said: “The Committee has been advocating linkage of unique Aadhaar ID Card number with voter I-card which would streamline alterations in EPIC (Electors’ Photo Identity Card) during change of ordinary residence by the electors.

“The incidence of multiple entry could also be eliminated which is required in participative democracy. The Committee, therefore, recommends that the Government may undertake appropriate actions for the purpose of linking unique Aadhaar Card number with Voter ID Card to purify the electoral roll.”

The 30-member committee, headed by Bhupender Yadav of the BJP, had Opposition members including Vivek Tankha (Congress), S.S. Roy (Trinamul), Majeed Memon (NCP) and P. Wilson (DMK). Its report does not mention anyone objecting to the recommendation.

The committee report cited how the Election Commission had launched a pilot project, the National Electoral Roll Purification and Authentication Programme, in February 2015 to weed out bogus voters by using the Aadhaar ID. 

The poll panel had to suspend the exercise in August 2015 because of the Puttaswamy case, which challenged the validity of the Aadhaar scheme.

Going by the Puttaswamy judgment, the law enacted this week to allow Aadhaar-linking of the electoral rolls is liable to a legal challenge, a Supreme Court lawyer said.

Parliament’s winter session, which was scheduled till Thursday, was adjourned sine die on Wednesday. During the session, 13 bills were introduced and 11 passed in both Houses.



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