RS clears draft law binding Aadhaar to electoral rolls, opposition withdraws

A day after its approval by the Lok Sabha, the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill of 2021 was passed by Rajya Sabha-style voice vote amid protests and an opposition walkout during a tumultuous afternoon which also led to the suspension of the MP from TMC. Derek O’Brien for the remainder of the winter semester for alleged unruly behavior.

O’Brien’s suspension on Tuesday came on a motion, brought by the MoS Union for Parliamentary Affairs V Muraleedharan, accusing him of “unruly and contemptuous behavior unworthy (of) a member of the Rajya Sabha by throwing brazenly the book of rules of the Rajya Sabha towards the president… thus casting discredit and shame on the august House ”.

Speaking to Twitter later, O’Brien wrote: “The last time I was suspended from Rajya Sabha was when the government. was the BULLDOZING #FarmLaws. We all know what happened after that. Today suspended to protest the BJP mocking Parliament and the BULLDOZING Election Laws Bill 2021. I hope this bill will also be repealed soon.

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

The amendment bill, which was introduced by Minister of Law and Justice Kiren Rijiju, seeks to bind Aadhaar to voter ID cards to allow voter registration officers to establish the identity of voters.

While the government has said the intention is to eliminate bogus votes and duplicates from voter lists, the opposition has described the proposed law as an attempt to manipulate the lists.

Debates at Rajya Sabha turned heated after the opposition’s motion to send the bill to a select committee was rejected by voice vote.

The walkout came after Vice President Harivansh responded to a request from John Brittas of the CPI (M) to split the votes by saying he would allow it once the House came to order. The vice president also disagreed with opposition leader Mallikarjun Kharge’s assertion that the House would be in order if a division was requested.

After the walkout and referring to O’Brien, House Leader Piyush Goyal said: “We saw how the members behaved in the last session. We felt that in this session, things had improved, but that was not the case when we saw the way the opposition members behaved today. Besides the rules of the Rajya Sabha, there are also rules of decency that the members have broken. Throwing in the rulebook is an insult to the Secretary General, the President and not just the House but the whole 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 about the link between the Aadhaar card and voter ID cards … have no basis” and that election data will remain the property of government and will not be made public.

He said the proposed law allows four separate opportunities per year for the registration of people reaching the age of 18 instead of just January 1 of each year earlier. He added that the bill also guarantees gender neutrality for military personnel, as previously “husbands of female officers did not have the right to vote”, which is now guaranteed.

Earlier, after the morning sitting adjourned, the afternoon began with O’Brien raising a point of order under Rule 69, saying that no motion to introduce the bill would could be presented unless copies were made available to all members two days in advance.

“It is just like the farm bills, when seven resolutions were brought forward by the opposition and none of them were allowed… this bill cannot be included today. Your
the intention may also be to manipulate the majority in the House by excluding 12 members, ” he said.

O’Brien said that under section 123, members also did not have time to submit resolutions for the bill to go to a special committee. Congressman Anand Sharma also raised a point of order under Rule 33 (1), claiming that proper notice or time allocation had not been provided.

Then, amid slogans of “we want justice” from the opposition, BJP MP Sushil Modi pointed out that Congressman Vivek Tankha and TMC’s Sukhendu Sekhar Ray, who were part of the House protests, were members of the parliamentary committee that had considered the bill.

In response, TMC’s Ray said Sushil Modi was not a member of the committee and therefore based his statement on hearsay. Ray said he gave a “dissent note” against the bill, which was “not cleared”.

While K Raveendra Kumar of the TDP accused the government of following double standards while promising that no voters’ names would be struck off the lists, Congressman Dr Amee Yajnik called the bill “violation of the right to privacy”.

Meanwhile, BJD’s Sujeet Kumar supported the bill but raised concerns about the link. “We understand the government’s intention is good, but there is a risk that biometric data will be misused,” he said, warning that marginalized sections could be affected if this happened.

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

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