A bill to amend two electoral laws to grant voting rights to people who became Indian citizens following the exchange of enclaves with Bangladesh in 1974 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.
The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2016, introduced by law minister D V Sadananda Gowda, seeks to amend Section 11 of the Delimitation Act, 2002 and Section 9 of the Representation of the People Act, 1950.
As the term of the 294-member West Bengal Assembly ends on May 29 and elections are likely to be held before that, there is a need for early passage of the bill. Government is hopeful that it would be passed by both the Houses in the next two days without discussion.
At a recent meeting between officials of the Law Ministry and the Election Commission, the poll body made it clear that it was necessary to grant voting rights to these people as the assembly polls in the state were nearing.
Following delimitation, these people will be made voters of assembly and parliamentary constituencies.
Once passed, the proposed Bill will enable the Election Commission to carry out a limited delimitation of assembly and parliamentary constituencies in Cooch Behar district of West Bengal following the exchange of 51 Bangladeshi and 111 Indian enclaves in July last year.
The enclaves were exchanged pursuant to the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement and 2011 Protocol and Instruments of Ratification during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh on June 6-7 last year.
Other than the 14,000 people of the 51 enclaves that became part of India, about 921 who came from Bangladesh have also become Indian citizens.
The Law ministry was earlier planning to bring an ordinance to amend the two laws. But the idea was shot down at a meeting of inter-ministerial group chaired by Home Minister Rajnath Singh a few days back as dates of the Budget session were set to be announced. As per convention, ordinances are avoided when session dates are announced.
The last delimitation exercise in West Bengal was carried out in 2008 and laws needed to be amended for a fresh, but limited delimitation exercise.