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EC to push multiple cut-off dates proposal to enrol voters

Election Commission

New Delhi: Unfazed by legal hurdles in its plan to register young citizens as voters as soon as they turn 18, the Election Commission has decided to approach the government to push its proposal to have multiple cut-off dates to enrol voters.

The Commission has formally asked the Law Ministry to discuss the issue in the coming days. The meeting could be attended by top EC brass and Law Ministry officials.

“Based on the meeting, the Commission will take a decision,” said a senior functionary.

The Legislative Department in the Law Ministry is the administrative ministry for the EC.

But according to the Law Ministry, a change in rules or even an amendment to the Representation of the People Act will not help.

“It is for the policy makers to decide whether multiple cut off dates are actually required. Less than one per cent of people are affected due to a single cut off date,” a senior law Ministry official explained indicating the lack of enthusiasm on part of the government to have multiple cut off dates.

The Attorney General had recently red flagged Commission’s plan to have multiple cut off dates to enrol voters, saying it contradicts provisions of the Constitution.

EC had last year told the government that the January 1 cut-off date set for the purpose deprives several youths from participating in the electoral exercise.

The Law Ministry had opposed the move, but following EC’s persistent demands, it had referred the matter to Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi for his opinion.

Rohatgi had supported the view of the Law Ministry that the move to have multiple cut off dates “contradicts” Article 326 of the Constitution and to have such a system is not practical.

Article 326 mentions a cut off ‘date’ and not ‘dates’,

the Ministry and the AG had pointed out.

According to the EC guidelines on enrolment of voters, 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 is eligible to be enrolled in the voters’ list.

As a result, 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. In case elections are taking place subsequently, they will have to wait for a longer period, the Election Commissioner has maintained.

Article 326 states that every person who is a citizen of India and who is not less than 18 of age on such “date” as may be fixed in that behalf by or under any law made by the appropriate legislature shall be entitled to be registered as a voter at any such election.

“The elections to the House of the People and to the Legislative Assembly of every State shall be on the basis of adult suffrage; but is to say, every person who is a citizen of India and who is not less than twenty one years of age (which was later amended to 18 years) on such ‘date’ as may be fixed in that behalf by or under any law made by the appropriate legislature…,” says Article 326.

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.

PTI