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RS clears Bill linking Aadhaar to voter roll, Opposition walks out

The amendment Bill, which was introduced by Law and Justice Minister Kiren Rijiju, seeks to link Aadhaar to voter IDs to enable electoral registration officers to establish the identity of voters.

Written by Esha Roy | New Delhi |
Updated: December 22, 2021 11:23:40 am
: TMC MP Derek O'Brien speaks in the Rajya Sabha during the Winter Session of Parliament, in New Delhi, Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2021. (PTI)

A day after it was cleared by the Lok Sabha, the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 was passed by voice vote in the Rajya Sabha amid protests and a walkout by the Opposition during a tumultuous afternoon that also led to the suspension of TMC MP Derek O’Brien for the rest of the winter session for alleged unruly behaviour.

O’Brien’s suspension Tuesday came on a motion, moved by Union MoS for Parliamentary Affairs V Muraleedharan, accusing him of “unruly and contemptuous behaviour, unbecoming (of) a member of the Rajya Sabha by brazenly throwing the Rajya Sabha Rule Book towards the Chair… thereby bringing disrepute and shame to the august House”.

Taking to Twitter later, O’Brien wrote: “The last time I got suspended from Rajya Sabha was when Govt. was BULLDOZING #FarmLaws. We all know what happened after that. Today, suspended while protesting against BJP making a mockery of Parliament and BULLDOZING Election Laws Bill 2021. Hope this Bill too will be repealed soon.”

O’Brien is the 13th Opposition MP to be suspended in this session after 12 others were suspended on the first day of the winter session for alleged unruly conduct towards the end of the monsoon session in August.

The amendment Bill, which was introduced by Law and Justice Minister Kiren Rijiju, seeks to link Aadhaar to voter IDs to enable electoral registration officers to establish the identity of voters.

While the Government has said that the intention is to eliminate bogus voting and duplication on electoral rolls, the Opposition has described the proposed law as a move to manipulate the rolls.

The proceedings in the Rajya Sabha became heated after the Opposition’s motion to send the Bill to a select committee was rejected by voice vote.

The walkout came after Deputy Speaker Harivansh responded to a demand by CPI(M)’s John Brittas for division of votes by saying that he would allow it after the House was brought to order. The Deputy Speaker also did not agree with Leader of the Opposition Mallikarjun Kharge’s assertion that the House would be in order if a division was called for.

Following the walkout and referring to O’Brien, Leader of the House Piyush Goyal said: “We saw how members behaved in the last session. We felt that in this session, things had improved, but this is not so seeing the way the Opposition members have behaved today. Apart from the rules of the Rajya Sabha, there are also rules of decency that the members have broken. Flinging the Rule Book is an insult to the Secretary General, to the Chair and not just to the House but to the entire nation. Everyone has the right to protest, but not to mislead or bring politics into the House.”

Earlier, amid Opposition protests, Rijiju said that “concerns of the linking of the Aadhaar card to voter ID cards…has no foundation” and that electoral data will remain with the Government and not be placed in the public domain.

He said the proposed law allows four separate opportunities through a year for registration of individuals attaining the age of 18 years instead of only on January 1 every year earlier. He added that the Bill also ensures gender neutrality for service personnel as earlier “husbands of women officers didn’t have voting rights’’, which is now ensured.

Earlier, after the morning session was adjourned, the afternoon began with O’Brien calling for point of order under Rule 69, saying that no motion to introduce the Bill can be made unless copies are made available to all members two days ahead.

“This is just like the farm Bills, when seven resolutions were brought by the Opposition and none of them were allowed…this Bill can’t be listed today. Your
intention may also be to manipulate the majority in the House by keeping 12 members out,’’ he said.

O’Brien said that under Rule 123, members were also not given time to submit resolutions for the Bill to be sent to a Select Committee. Congress MP Anand Sharma also raised a point of order under Rule 33 (1), saying that proper notice or allocation of time had not been provided.

Then, amid slogans of “we want justice’’ by the Opposition, BJP MP Sushil Modi pointed out that Vivek Tankha of Congress and Sukhendu Sekhar Ray of TMC, who were part of the protests in the House, were members of the Parliamentary Committee that had scrutinised the Bill.

In response, TMC’s Ray said Sushil Modi had not been a member of the Committee and had therefore based his statement on hearsay. Ray said he had given a “note of dissent’’ against the Bill, which had “not been allowed’’.

While TDP’s K Raveendra Kumar accused the Government of following double standards while promising that no voter’s name would be struck off the rolls, Congress MP Dr Amee Yajnik called the Bill a “violation of the rights to privacy”.

Sujeet Kumar of the BJD meanwhile, supported the Bill but raised concerns over the linking. “We understand that the intention of the government is good, but there is a chance of the biometric data being misused,” he said, warning that marginalised sections could be affected if this happened.

The Bill moved by the BJP-led Government was also supported by JD(U), YSRCP and AIADMK. The Opposition parties that were part of the walkout included Congress, TMC, the Left, DMK and NCP.

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