New Delhi: Election Commission's plan to ensure that young citizens are registered as voters as soon as they turn 18 has run into difficulties as the Law Ministry feels that the move to have multiple cut off dates could require a Constitutional amendment, something not possible immediately.
EC had recently told the government that the January 1 cut off date set for the purpose deprives several youths from participating in the electoral exercise.
According to the Election Commission 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," Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi had said recently.
But according to the Law Ministry, a change in rules or even an amendment to the Representation of the People Act will not help. 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.
"Article 326 mentions a cut off date and not a set of dates, therefore, any move to remove the cut off date or to have multiple cut off dates will require amending the Article," a senior official explained.
The issue of whether to have no cut off date at all or to have multiple cut off dates for those attaining 18 years of age to register as voters is set to be referred to government's top law officer, the attorney general, for his opinion.
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.
The proposal could not take off 1.27 crore new voters of the age group of 18-19 years have been registered recently.