New Delhi: Parliament on Tuesday passed a bill to link electoral roll data with the Aadhaar ecosystem with Rajya Sabha passing it by voice vote amid a walkout by the opposition.
The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which was passed in Lok Sabha on Monday, seeks to weed out fake voters from electoral rolls. It seeks to allow electoral registration officers to seek Aadhaar number of people who want to register as voters "for the purpose of establishing the identity".
At the same time, the amendment bill makes it clear that "no application for inclusion of name in the electoral roll shall be denied and no entries in the electoral roll shall be deleted for the inability of an individual to furnish or intimate Aadhaar number due to such sufficient cause as may be prescribed".
The bill was passed after an hour-long discussion with members of several parties who supported it but had some concerns. They said the bill is part of electoral reforms and will help weed out fake and bogus voters in the electoral rolls.
Meanwhile, the discussion on the bill continued amid protests by opposition members who were all the time in the well, raising slogans. They later staged a walkout as their demand for sending the bill to a select committee was rejected.
Members of the Congress, TMC, CPI-M, CPI, DMK, RJD, Samajwadi Party, AAP and NCP walked out from the House in protest. They earlier opposed the bill, saying it infringes on voters' right to privacy and goes against the Supreme Court judgement.
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.
TMC member Derek O'Brien cited rules for the division of votes even as Deputy Chairman Harivansh urged the members to go to their seats to enable the division. However, opposition members continued to raise slogans in the well. O'Brien threw the rule book on the table where officials sit and staged a walkout.
Ruling party members strongly condemned his behaviour, with the leader of the House Piyush Goyal saying that he insulted not only the Chair and the House but the entire country with his act.
O'Brien was later suspended for the remainder of the session for his unruly behaviour after a motion by the government in this regard was passed unanimously. The Chair also condemned his behaviour.
Members of the BJP, JD(U), YSRCP, AIADMK, BJD, TDP and TMC-M supported the bill, saying it will help in eradicating duplicate and fake voters from electoral rolls, terming it as a far-reaching electoral reform.
Earlier, Anand Sharma and O'Brien alleged that the bill was being brought in haste and in an undemocratic manner. The TMC leader alleged the bill was being passed in the same manner as the controversial farm laws were.
Terming the bill "very good", Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju said the legislation will help end fake and bogus voting in the country and make the electoral process credible. Dismissing apprehensions of the opposition as "baseless", the minister said they were "misinterpreting" the Supreme Court's judgement on personal liberty.
"There is no basis of your opposition to the bill. The Election Commission (EC) and the government have held many meetings and the poll panel's biggest concern is that the same person has (his or her) name in multiple electoral rolls and there is no other system to check this," he said.
He said any Indian above 18 years can get his/her name included in the voter's list and the youth will get four occasions in a year to register themselves with the EC.