New Delhi: More young citizens would soon be able to enlist themselves as voters as the Law Ministry has drafted a bill to have multiple cut-off dates to ensure that people who turn 18 are able to register in the electoral rolls twice a year.
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. Now, July 1 could be the second cut-off date.
While the Election Commission had been pushing for four cut-off dates to register as voters, the government has agreed to have two.
EC told the government that the January 1 cut-off date set for the purpose deprives several youths from participating in the electoral exercise held in a particular year.
The frequently asked question section on the website of Delhi Chief Electoral Officer explains the concept of cut-off or qualifying date.
“Which is the relevant date for determining the age qualification of 18 years? Suppose, you have completed 18 years of age today. Can you get yourself registered as voter?
“According to Section 14 (b) of the Representation of the People Act, 1950, the qualifying date means the first day of January of the year in which the electoral roll is prepared or revised.”
Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi had recently said that “as a result (of having one cut-off date), if a person is becoming 18 years on January 2, he cannot be registered. Therefore, a person who is turning 18 beyond January 1 will have to wait for next year to get registered.”
At a meeting held last month between Zaidi had top Law Ministry officials, the government had agreed for two cut-off dates.
The Commission proposed that instead of only one qualifying date for enrollment, there should be four different dates (January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1) for enrollment so that maximum number of people can be enrolled.
The Law Ministry suggested that instead of four dates, “we may introduce two dates. Accordingly, the Commission proposed that January 1 and July 1 may be specified as qualifying dates for enrollment by amending electoral laws”, EC had said in a statement after the meeting.
EC’s proposal had earlier run into legal hurdles as government was of the view that that it would need a constitutional amendment. But now, the EC and the Law Ministry have agreed that the Representation of the People Act would only have be amended by a simple bill.
A proposal made in the early 1970s had suggested multiple cut off dates of January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 for those attaining the required age to register as voters. But the proposal could not take off though a bill was ready for introduction in Parliament.
Interestingly, when the EC had earlier mooted the idea, it had sent a copy of the same to the Jammu and Kashmir government. The then Jammu and Kashmir government had in fact implemented the idea. Therefore, the state already has multiple cut-off dates for people to register as voters.
About 1.27 crore new voters in the age group of 18-19 years have been registered recently.
Till last week, the Law Ministry was planning to bring a comprehensive bill to amend electoral laws to have two cut off dates and to allow EC carry out a limited delimitation exercise in West Bengal to accord voting rights to people who came to live in the country following exchange of enclaves between India and Bangladesh.
But now, it is brining two separate bills, a senior Law Ministry official said.
The reason being that the term of the 294-member West Bengal Assembly ends on May 29 and elections are likely to be held before that. EC wants a month’s time for undertaking delimitation exercise. Therefore, the government wants to push the bill on enclaves in the first days of the Budget session beginning February 23.
The bill on cut-off dates could be brought in the second part of the session from April 25 to May 13.