New Delhi, Mar 4: The Election Commission was today vested with powers to carry out a limited delimitation exercise in West Bengal's Cooch Behar district to allow voting rights to people who became Indian citizens following the exchange of enclaves with Bangladesh.
"Election Laws (Amendment) Bill enacted into Act. Coming into effect from March 4, 2016. Process to make new citizens of India from erstwhile Bangladeshi enclaves as Indian electorates set in motion. We wholeheartedly welcome," Law Minister D V Sadananda Gowda tweeted this morning.
The Bill was passed by both Houses of Parliament without debate and sent to the President for his approval last week. These people had become Indian citizens with effect from July 31 last following exchange of enclaves with Bangladesh.
They can be extended voting rights ahead of the Assembly polls in the state set to be announced today. The Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 2016 will amend Section 11 of the Delimitation Act, 2002 and Section 9 of the Representation of the People Act, 1950.
It has now enabled 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.
The last delimitation in West Bengal was held in 2008 and laws needed to be amended for a fresh, but limited delimitation exercise.