NEW DELHI: The Lok Sabha today passed a bill to grant voting rights to people who became citizens of the country following the exchange of enclaves between India and Bangladesh, even as the Opposition questioned the delay on part of the government in bringing the measure.
Moving the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2016 for consideration and passage, Law Minister D V Sadananda Gowda urged the members to pass the Bill without delay. The minister had introduced in the Lok Sabha the Bill to amend Section 11 of the Delimitation Act, 2002 and Section 9 of the Representation of the People Act, 1950. The Bill was later passed unanimously by a voice vote.
Gowda urged the House to pass the bill in the current session to enable the grant of voting rights to the people in these enclaves. "EC is already working on it. The central government will provide all assistance to the state so that the people who have come from Bangladesh can be given the basic rights in the upcoming elections in West Bengal," the Minister said.
The term of the 294-member West Bengal Assembly ends on May 29 and elections are to be held before that, hence there was a sense of urgency for early passage of the bill. Congress member Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said it was imperative on the part of the government to ensure voting rights to the people, especially when the time was too short due to the impending elections. TMC member Kalyan Banerjee and Shiv Sena's Anandrao Adsul too favoured passing the legislation at the earliest.
Lashing out at the government for "inordinate delay", RSP MP N K Premachandran questioned the reasons for delaying the Bill when the 100th Amendment Constitution Bill was passed in July last year. "Why was the Centre sleeping over it for all this time," he asked.
Echoing Premachandran, CPI(M) leader Mohammad Salim too questioned the delay on part of the Centre and the state government to expedite the process of granting voting rights to people living in these enclaves.
Supporting the Bill, TDP MP Jayadev Galla said when the government was giving voting rights these citizens, it should also consider giving voting rights to NRIs.