B'desh enclave: Bill to allow voters likely to be passed in RS

New Delhi, Feb 20: A bill to allow Election Commission to hold limited delimitation exercise in West Bengal so that people who became Indian citizens following the exchange of enclaves with Bangladesh get voting rights is likely to be passed in Rajya Sabha without discussion.

At an all-party meeting convened by Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari today, the Opposition agreed to the proposal of the government that the bill be passed at the earliest so that people who became Indian citizens with effect from July 31 last following exchange of enclaves with Bangladesh can be extended voting rights ahead of the Assembly polls in the state due in the next two months.

B'desh enclave: Bill to be passed in RS

Finance Minister and Leader of the House in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley brought up the matter and the parties agreed, leaders who attended the meeting said.

The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2016 seeks to amend Section 11 of the Delimitation Act, 2002 and Section 9 of the Representation of the People Act, 1950.

Once passed, it will enable the Election Commission to carry out limited delimitation of Assembly and Parliamentary constituencies in Cooch Behar district of West Bengal following the exchange of 51 Bangladeshi and 111 Indian enclaves in July last year.

The term of the 294-member West Bengal Assembly ends on May 29 and elections are likely to be held before that. Following delimitation, these people will be made voters of Assembly and Parliamentary constituencies.

The enclaves were exchanged pursuant to the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement and 2011 Protocol and Instruments of Ratification during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Bangladesh on June 6-7 last year. Other than the 14,000 people of the 51 enclaves that became part of India, about 921 who came from Bangladesh have also become Indian citizens.

While session would commence on February 23, the proposed bill is likely to be introduced the next day in Lok Sabha. The plan is to get it passed by both the Houses by March 1, so that the EC, in the limited time it has, can begin the delimitation exercise. The last delimitation in West Bengal was held in 2008 and laws needed to be amended for a fresh, but limited delimitation exercise.


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