What changes are introduced by Election laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021?

By Arshia Jain

Published On: December 29, 2021 at 13:40 IST


On December 20, 2021, the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 was tabled in the Lok Sabha. The bill modifies the People’s Representation Act of 1950 and the People’s Representation Act of 1951 to enact various election changes. The 1950 Act regulates the distribution of seats and the delimitation of electoral constituencies, as well as voter qualifications and the creation of electoral records. The 1951 Act governs election procedures, as well as election-related offenses and disputes.

Linking electoral roll data to Aadhaar: The 1950 Act states that anybody can apply to the electoral registration officer to have their name added to a constituency’s electoral roll. If the officer is satisfied that the application is eligible for registration after verification, he will instruct that the applicant’s name be included in the electoral roll. The electoral registration official may ask for a person’s Aadhaar number to verify their identification, according to the bill. If their name is already on the electoral roll, the Aadhaar number may be necessary for the roll’s entries to be authenticated. If a person is unable to provide an Aadhaar number owing to a legitimate reason, they shall not be refused inclusion in the electoral roll or have their names removed from the roll. Such individuals may be allowed to submit alternative papers as determined by the federal authorities.

The qualifying date for enrolment in the electoral roll is January 1 of the year in which the electoral roll is being created or amended, according to the 1950 Act. This means that a person who turns 18 (i.e., becomes eligible to vote) after January 1 can only register to vote when the electoral roll is prepared/revised the following year. The Bill modifies this to include four eligible days in a calendar year: January 1, April 1, July 1, and October 1.

Requisitioning of properties for election purposes: The 1951 Act allows the state government to requisition properties that are needed or likely to be needed as polling stations or for the storage of vote boxes after a poll has been performed. The bill broadens the types of premises that can be requisitioned. These include counting, storing voting equipment and polling-related materials, and housing security forces and polling-related staff.

Gender-neutral provisions: The 1950 Act allows certain people who live in a constituency regularly to register on the electoral rolls. Those with a service qualification, such as members of the military forces or central government officials stationed outside India, are examples of such people. If they live with them, their spouses are likewise considered to be normally dwelling in the same constituency. The 1951 Act allows the wife of someone who holds a service qualification to vote in person or by postal ballot. In both Acts, the Bill substitutes the term “wife” with “spouse.”

Government Defence in Linking Aadhaar Card to the Voter’s ID

A Rajya Sabha discussion on changes to the election legislation, including enabling Aadhaar to be linked to voter IDs, is scheduled for today. The administration has clarified its reasoning in a memo in response to the opposition’s strong criticism and demand for a review. The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill 2021, according to “official sources,” is required:

  • Law Minister Kiren Rijiju told BJP MPs this morning that all of the parties criticizing the law, including the Trinamool Congress, were members of the standing committee that made such recommendations.
  • The ‘Election Laws (Amendment) Bill 2021’ contains some election changes that have been proposed for some time.
  • An individual who is eligible to be registered as a voter submits an application to be added to the electoral roll.
  • This law includes a provision allowing new applicants to voluntarily disclose their Aadhaar numbers with their application to prove their identity.
  • No application would be denied due to the lack of an Aadhaar number.
  • Multiple enrolments of the same individual in various areas, which is one of the key challenges in electoral database administration, would be solved by integrating Aadhaar with the electoral roll.
  • This might be due to voters often changing addresses and enrolling at the new location without canceling the old one.
  • As a result, electors whose names appear on several electoral rolls or many times on the same electoral roll can be eliminated.
  • When the Aadhaar link is completed, the electoral roll data system will immediately alert the person’s prior registration(s) whenever they apply for new registration.
  • This will go a long way toward cleaning up the electoral rolls. It will also make it easier for voters to register in their ‘normally resident’ place.

Facts about the Bill

Following opposition parties’ strong objections against the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, the federal government underlined on Tuesday that the reforms are necessary and provided a thorough explanation of how the proposed changes will help the voting system.

The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill 2021, headed by Law Minister Kiren Rijiju, was cleared by voice vote after a brief debate in which some opposition members recommended that it be referred to a parliamentary commission for assessment. The following are ten things you should know about the Bill:

  • The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021, proposes allowing electoral registration authorities to ask for the Aadhaar number of those who wish to register as voters to verify their identification. The law is scheduled to be debated in the Rajya Sabha, or upper house, today.
  • The law proposes enabling electoral registration officials to ask those who wish to register as voters for their Aadhaar numbers “to verify identify.”
  • It also suggests allowing electoral registration officers to demand Aadhaar numbers from “citizens showed in the electoral roll for identity verification of posts in the electoral roll, and to recognize registration of the same username in more than one electorate or more than once in the same voter base.”
  • “No application for inclusion of a person’s name in the electoral register will be refused, and no entries in the electoral roll shall be removed because an individual is unable to give or intimate an Aadhaar number owing to such adequate cause as may be stipulated,” according to the amended law. Individuals in this situation will be allowed to supply any further paperwork that may be requested.
  • It was also announced that the Representation of the People Act will be changed in different parts. Section 23 of the RP Act would be altered to facilitate the integration of electoral roll data with the Aadhaar ecosystem “to limit the scourge of duplicate enrolment of the same individual in various areas,” according to Bill’s Statement of Objects and Reasons.
  • An amendment to Section 14 of the RP Act would allow eligible citizens to register to vote on four “qualifying” days. The only qualifying date is now January 1st of each year. Voting is open to anybody who turns 18 on or before January 1st. Those who reach 18 after that must wait a whole year to register to vote.
  • The qualifying dates for the preparation or modification of electoral rolls will henceforth be “the first day of January, the first day of April, the first day of July, and the first day of October of a calendar year.”
  • Sections 20 and 60 of the RP Act, 1950 and 1951, respectively, will be amended to make elections gender-neutral for service voters. The change will also assist to replace the term “wife” with “partner,” making the laws “gender-neutral.” According to electoral legislation, an Army officer’s wife is eligible to register as a service voter, while a woman Army officer’s spouse is not. This will change once the term “wife” is replaced by “spouse.”
  • Meanwhile, the opposition has slammed the administration for passing the bill through the Lok Sabha. The bill should be referred to a standing committee, according to the opposition parties. Opposition parties must fight tooth and nail to prevent the electoral changes, Bill, from being rammed through the Rajya Sabha. Members of Parliament were not given enough time to debate, according to the CPI(M).
  • The CPI(M) has stated in a statement that this Bill risks jeopardizing both the secrecy of the vote and the fundamental right to privacy of the voter. The CPI(M) politburo has denounced the haste with which crucial amendments in election legislation, with far-reaching implications, have been rammed through the Lok Sabha and passed in a ruckus, it stated.

The following are the bill’s primary features:

  • De-Duplication of Electoral Rolls: It amends section 23 of the Representation of People’s Act, 1950, to allow for the integration of electoral roll data with the Aadhaar ecosystem.
  • This is done to decrease the chances of the same person enrolling in many places.
  • This will aid in the prevention of phony and fraudulent votes.
  • This connection is in line with the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, and Law and Justice’s 105th report.

Multiple Eligibility Dates: Citizens are eligible to vote when they turn 18 years old. Many people do not register to vote even after they reach the age of 18. This is because the system’s qualifying date is January 1st.

  • According to the law, the first day of January, April, July, and October will be designated as qualifying dates for updating the voter records to include people who have turned 18 years old.

Bringing Gender Neutrality: The term “wife of service voters” will be replaced with the term “spouse.” As a result, the laws will be more “gender-neutral.”

  • Those serving in the armed forces, armed police forces of a state operating outside it, and government officials deployed outside India are all considered service voters.

Concerns that are related:

  • After the Supreme Court’s decision in 2015, the drive to link voter ID to Aadhaar was put on hold. “The Aadhaar card Scheme is optional,” it stated.
  • Apart from that, Aadhaar was created solely to serve as proof of residence. This is insufficient proof of citizenship.
  • Fears of mass enfranchisement: The bill permits electoral registration authorities to seek Aadhaar numbers from anyone who wishes to register as a voter to verify their identification.
  • Without Aadhar, the government would be able to exploit voter identity information to disenfranchise some people and profile residents.
  • Experts have warned that in the absence of a strong personal data privacy law (a Bill in this respect has yet to be approved by Parliament), any effort to enable data sharing might be problematic.
  • Election data is now stored in its database by the Election Commission of India (ECI), which has its verification procedure and is independent of other government databases.
  • The ECI and India’s Unique Identification Authority would have access to data through the proposed Aadhaar-election database connection (UIDAI). As a result, citizens’ privacy may be infringed.

The Government’s Position:

  • The planned connectivity between the Aadhaar and electoral databases is purely optional.
  • There is no risk of disenfranchisement: No application for inclusion of a person’s name in the electoral roll will be refused, and no entries in the electoral roll will be removed due to an individual’s inability to provide or inform their Aadhaar number.

Next Steps

  • Legislation with a Wide Range of Effects Is Required: An error-free electoral roll is required for a free and fair election. On the other hand, the administration should produce a comprehensive bill so that genuine debate may take place in Parliament.
  • More Is Required Clarification: The law should state the scope of data sharing between the two databases, the mechanisms for obtaining consent, and whether or not consent to link the databases may be rescinded.


Arshia Jain is a second-year law student at SVKM’s NMIMS, School of Law in Navi Mumbai, Mumbai, India, pursuing a BBALLB. When it comes to work, she is a dedicated and hardworking individual. She believes in pursuing one’s dreams and remaining optimistic throughout life.

Edited by: Aashima Kakkar, Associate Editor, Law Insider

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