New Delhi: Union Cabinet on Wednesday cleared a bill allowing the Election Commission to seed the Aadhaar number with electoral rolls on a voluntary basis.
According to the bill cleared by the Cabinet, the electoral law will be made “gender-neutral” for service voters. Another provision of the bill will allow new voters to enroll on four different dates every year. As of now, those turning 18 on or before January 1 of every year are only allowed to register as voters.
An army man’s wife is entitled to be enrolled as a service voter, but a woman army officer’s husband is not, according to the existing provisions. The ECI had asked the law ministry to replace the term ‘wife’ with ‘spouse’ in the provision in the Representation of the People Act related to service voters.
In August 2019, the Election Commission proposed amendments including linking of the ID card with Aadhaar number which will curb multiple enrollments of the same individual at different places. This has been a long-pending proposal of the Election Commission. In 2015, when the EC launched the National Electoral Law Purification and Authentication Programme to link the Aadhaar number with the Voter ID number, the programme was stalled after the Supreme Court ordered that the use of Aadhaar would be optional for availing of welfare schemes.
According to reports, the law ministry started working on the proposal in 2020 when Ravi Shankar Prasad was the minister. In August this year, Law Minister Kiren Rijiju informed Parliament that the government was considering the EC’s proposal. “After consulting various stakeholders, the Commission submitted its 244th and 255th Reports encompassing various aspects of electoral reforms which, inter alia, include disqualification from contesting election on framing of charges, regulation of election finance and opinion polls, ban on paid news, etc,” he said in a written reply.
Another proposal in the reforms will allow the Election Commission to take over any premise for the conduct of elections overruling objections to taking over schools as polling booths.
The bill is likely to be introduced in the ongoing Winter Session.