Updated: December 22, 2021 6:29:58 pm
The central government is planning to hold a meeting with state election commissioners soon to try and persuade them to adopt a common electoral roll for Parliament, Assembly and local body elections, it is learnt.
On a day the Rajya Sabha passed The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which enables the linking of electoral roll data with the Aadhaar ecosystem amid opposition protests, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice held a scheduled meeting on the ‘Status of Common Electoral Roll for conducting elections in the country’.
It is learnt that opposition members in the committee – TMC’s Sukhendu Sekhar Ray, Congress’s Deepender Hooda and DMK’s P Wilson – opposed the proposal, arguing that it was an encroachment into the rights of the states. Some of the opposition members, it is learnt, argued that the Centre has no powers or authority to tinker with the powers given to the State Election Commission under the Constitution.
The Committee was given a presentation on the status of common electoral roll by Secretary, Legislative Department Reeta Vasishta and representatives of Election Commission. It is learnt that the government informed the Committee that it plans to hold a meeting with state election commissioners soon to try and convince them to adopt a common electoral roll.
The government, as of now, is not in favour of amending the law but wants to persuade the state to adopt a common electoral roll.
What the rules say
Article 243 K of the Constitution says, “Elections to the Panchayats: The superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of electoral rolls for, and the conduct of, all elections to the Panchayats shall be vested in a State Election Commission consisting of a State Election Commissioner to be appointed by the Governor.”
Incidentally, The Indian Express on Dece-mber 17 reported that Chief Election Commi-ssioner Sushil Chandra and Election Commis-sioners Rajiv Kumar and Anup Chandra Pandey joined an online “interaction” called by the Prime Minister’s Office on November 16 despite reservations. The interaction was on the issue of a common electoral roll.
The interaction took place a day after the Election Commission received an unusually worded letter from an official of the Law Ministry – the administrative Ministry of the poll panel – that Principal Secretary to PM P K Mishra will “chair a meeting” on a common electoral roll and “expects CEC” to be present.
The issue of common electoral roll had been on the discussion table since 2002 when Justice M N Venkatachaliah headed the National Commission to Review theWorking of the Constitution recommended a common electoral roll for elections to panchayati raj institutions, state assembly and Parliament.
The Second Administrative Reforms Commission in its sixth report on local governance in 2007 took a view that local government laws should provide for adoption of assembly electoral rolls for local government without any revision of names by the State Election Commissions. The Law Commission of India in its 255th Report on Electoral Reform in 2015 also favoured introduction of common electoral roll for Parliament, assembly and local body elections.
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