The Union Cabinet cleared proposed amendments to the electoral law seeking to bring in key reforms such as voluntary linkage of voter ID with Aadhaar card so as to weed out bogus and duplicate entries in electoral rolls.
Another reform sought to be implemented is on allowing multiple qualifying dates in a year, rather than only January 1, for those above 18 years, to register themselves as voters, sources said. The draft bill to amend the Representation of the People Act, approved by the Cabinet and likely to be brought before Parliament in the winter session, also purportedly proposes to make gender-neutral a provision allowing only the wife of a male service voter to register as a voter in the same constituency as him.
A fourth likely amendment seeks to empower the Election Commission to requisition premises for any purpose related to election, not just for polling stations and storage of ballot boxes.
Sources said the Bill to amend the RP Act proposes to empower the electoral registration officer to seek Aadhaar number of existing as well as new voters, albeit only on a voluntary basis. The Aadhaar number will only be used for the purpose of voter authentication.
While multiple dates for registration of newly-eligible voters—the Cabinet is said to have cleared four dates of January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1in a given year—will be made possible through an amendment to Section 14(b) of the RP Act, the gender-neutral registration facility for spouses of service voters is sought to be implemented by amending Section 20(6) of the Act. Also, the proposed amendment to Section 160(1) A of the RP Act will empower the EC to requisition premises for any purpose, including for housing central paramilitary forces, its employees and observers.
Incidentally, the EC had in 2015 taken up linking of voter card and Aadhaar number as part of its National Electoral Roll Purification and Authentication Programme. Around 32 crore Aadhaar numbers were seeded by the time the EC decided to abandon the programme in view of the Supreme Court judgment restricting the use of Aadhaar.
Following the SC judgment in 2019 allowing collection of Aadhaar with due amendment in the Aadhaar Act, the EC wrote to the law ministry seeking a suitable amendment to enable mandatory linking of voter card with Aadhaar. This was agreed to by the law ministry.
EC officials said Aadhaar-EPIC linkage will also help realise the commission’s plan to work towards secure, possibly electronic, voting to help migrant voters—including domestic workers, migrant labourers, etc—exercise their franchise even if they are not in the constituency where they are registered as voters.
“Their identification having been adequately verified, the commission can explore technology that will let them vote from a remote location guarded by the EC,” an officer said.