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Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 passed in Rajya Sabha by a voice vote

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New Delhi, Dec 21: Parliament passed the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 - to link electoral roll data with Aadhaar, on Tuesday with Rajya Sabha approving it through voice vote amid a walkout by the Opposition.

The Bill seeks to link electoral rolls with the Aadhaar ecosystem to weed out duplication of voters and weed out fake votes.

Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 passed in Rajya Sabha by a voice vote

The Bill was passed in Lok Sabha by a voice vote after a brief discussion during which some opposition members demanded that it be referred to a parliamentary panel for scrutiny.

The opposition parties were demanding a division of votes as they had moved a motion to send the Bill to a select committee, which was rejected by voice vote.

Members of opposition parties like Congress, TMC, Left parties, DMK and NCP staged a walkout from the House in protest. Rajya Sabha approved the Bill after members of BJP, JD(U), YSRCP, AIADMK, BJD and TMC-M supported it, saying it will help in eradicating duplicate and fake votes from the electoral rolls.

Amid Opposition criticism, PTI sources in the government on Tuesday said the move would solve the "major problem" of multiple enrolment of the same person at different places and help in "cleaning" the voters' list to a great extent.

The government sources said the bill incorporates various electoral reforms which have been discussed for a long time, and shared a 2018 statement of the Election Commission following a meeting of all recognised national and regional parties on various electoral reforms.

"Political parties urged the commission to link Aadhaar numbers with electors' detail for better electoral roll management," the EC had said.

Registration in the electoral roll is done based on an application by a person who is eligible to be registered as a voter and this bill has a provision whereby the new applicant may voluntarily provide the Aadhaar number along with the application for the purpose of identity, government sources said. No application will be rejected on the grounds that Aadhaar number has not been provided, the sources added.

Aadhaar linking with electoral roll will solve "one of the major problems" in electoral database management which is multiple enrolment of the same person at different places, they said.

This may be due to the frequent shifting of residence by electors and getting enrolled in the new place without deleting the previous enrolment, the sources noted. Thus, the possibility of electors whose names appear in more than one electoral roll or at times more than once in the same electoral roll can be removed, they said.

Once Aadhaar linkage is achieved, the electoral roll data system will instantly alert the existence of previous registration(s) whenever a person applies for new registration, the sources said. This will help in "cleaning" the electoral roll to a great extent and facilitate voter registration in the location at which they are 'ordinarily resident', the sources added.

Besides linking electoral roll to Aadhaar, the bill also seeks to make the statutes gender neutral by substituting the term 'wife' with 'spouse' to allow husbands of service voters to cast their vote from the place where their wives are posted.

It also seeks to provide four qualifying dates -- January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 -- in a year for registration of voters, instead of a single qualifying date -- January 1.

(with PTI inputs)

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