Press Trust of india

Plans afoot to have four cut-off dates for new voters to enrol, par panel told

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New Delhi: Plans are afoot to have four cut-off dates every year for people to enrol as voters by amending the electoral law, a move which will eventually help have a common electoral roll for the Lok Sabha, Assembly and local body polls as also ensure that more eligible youngsters become part of the electorate.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) had been pushing for multiple cut-off dates to allow more eligible people to register as voters.

As of now, for an election to be held in a particular year, only an individual who has attained the age of 18 years as on January 1 of that year or before is eligible to be enrolled in the voters’ list.

The ECI had told the government that the January 1 cut-off date set for the purpose deprives several youngsters from participating in the electoral exercise held in a particular year.

Due to only one qualifying or cut-off date, a person attaining the age of 18 years on January 2 cannot be registered. Therefore, a person who turns 18 after January 1 will have to wait for next year to get registered.

The law ministry has told a parliamentary panel that “it is proposed to amend section 14(b) of the Representation of the People Act to insert four qualifying dates (or cut-off dates) — January 1, April 1, July 1, and October 1 — of every year”.

It said a comprehensive draft cabinet note “containing this proposal (of four qualifying dates) as well as a few other important electoral reform proposals taken up by the Election Commission is under preparation”.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Law and Personnel on Friday tabled its 109th report on “Action Taken on 107th report of the Committee on Demands for Grants (2021-22) pertaining to the Ministry of Law and Justice” in the Lok Sabha.

The committee referred to its earlier observation where it had reiterated its recommendation for the implementation of a common electoral roll in the country and desired that “all-out efforts” should be made in this regard.

Responding to the recommendation, the ministry said according to section 13D of the Representation of the People Act, the electoral roll for every parliamentary constituency should consist of the electoral rolls for all the Assembly constituencies within the Lok Sabha segment and it should not be necessary to separately prepare or revise the electoral roll for any such parliamentary constituency.

“Therefore, there is a common electoral roll for both Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assembly elections as of now,” the ministry noted.

It said according to the information provided by the ECI, 25 states and eight Union territories are presently using the electoral roll data prepared by it for preparing their electoral roll for local bodies and panchayat elections.

“The ECI had informed that one of the reasons for the reluctance of some states to use the EC electoral roll is that there is only one qualifying date for registration or updation of the roll prepared by the EC — 1st day of January of every year, whereas some states have multiple qualifying dates. This ensures the updation of the (electoral) roll (or voters’ list) four times in a year,” the ministry said.

In a bid to persuade the remaining states to use the electoral roll prepared by the ECI for holding local body elections, “it is proposed to amend section 14(b) of the Representation of the People Act, 1950 to insert four qualifying dates, i.e. 1st January, 1st April, 1st July, and 1st October, of every year…”, it told the parliamentary panel.

The committee observed that multiple qualifying dates will encourage the states to use common electoral rolls “so as to avoid preparation of separate voters’ list, which causes duplication of the same task between two different agencies and undue expenditure”.

The respective state election commissions (SECs) hold the local body or panchayat elections in the states.

The SECs are separate bodies and are not part or linked to the ECI.

The ECI is mandated to hold the presidential, vice-presidential, Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, state Assembly and state legislative council polls.

The legislative department in the law ministry is the nodal agency to deal with issues related to the the ECI.

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