Assembly elections now unlikely this year in J-K

SRINAGAR — Despite continuous demands by political parties to conduct Assembly polls in Jammu and Kashmir, the new date of publishing the final electoral roll from October 31 to November 25, 2022 — deferment from an earlier date indicates Assembly elections will not be held this year.

Earlier, it was announced that the Election Commission will publish the finalised electoral rolls of Jammu and Kashmir on October 31. However, according to the revised schedule of Special Summary Revision in the Union Territory, draft rolls will be published on September 15, 2022.

The deferment of elections became clear after the Election Commission of India (ECI) on Tuesday notified the schedule of Special Summary Revision (SSR) with reference to October 1, 2022, as the qualifying date, in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir with an opportunity for youth attaining 18 years on it (qualifying date) or earlier to become part of voters list in the UT.

As per its notification, November 25, 2022, has been set as the deadline for publication of the final electoral roll, after due disposal of all claims and objections filed within the stipulated time period.

The ECI notification issued in this regard on August 8, 2022, was in continuation to its earlier notification dated June 29, 2022.

Jammu and Kashmir has been without an Assembly since November 2018, when the Legislative Assembly was dissolved by then Governor Satya Pal Malik after PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti staked claim to form the government. Governor’s rule was imposed in the state in June 2018 after the BJP pulled out of the Mufti-led PDP-BJP coalition government.

In May 2022, the Delimitation Commission finalised its two-year-long exercise by recommending the creation of six additional Assembly constituencies in the Jammu region and one more in the Kashmir valley.

Now all the political parties were expecting that the completion of the process of redrawing the electoral map of Jammu and Kashmir would pave the way for Assembly elections in the Union Territory.

As per the schedule applicable to the UT of Jammu and Kashmir, September 15, 2022, has been earmarked as the deadline for publication of the integrated draft electoral roll; claims and objections can be filed between September 15 to October 25, 2022.

The disposal of claims will be made by November 10, 2022; checking of health parameters and obtaining the Commission’s permission for final publication and updating the database and printing of supplements will be completed by November 19, 2022, and the deadline for final publication of electoral roll will be November 25, 2022.

The Election Commission of India, in pursuance of the legal amendments in Section 14(b) of the RP Act 1950 and consequent modifications in Registration of Electors Rules, 1960, whereby a provision for four qualifying dates i.e., January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1 as eligibility for youngsters to register in electoral rolls as opposed to the earlier single qualifying date of January 1 only has been made, notified the Special Summary Revision exercise for the UT of Jammu and Kashmir with reference to 1st October 2022 as the qualifying date.

This means that any person who attains the age of 18 years on or before October 1, 2022, and is otherwise qualified to be enrolled as an elector in the Electoral Roll, can apply for his registration in the Electoral Roll during this SSR.

At present, the pre-revision activities, as well as post-delimitation, follow-up work is going on in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir, wherein the existing electoral roll of the UT of Jammu and Kashmir is being mapped into the newly delimited Assembly constituencies as per the Delimitation Commission’s final order made applicable by the Union Law Ministry w.e.f. May 20, 2022.

As part of the pre-revision activities, the process of rationalization or re-arrangement of polling stations, removal of discrepancies of demographically similar entries/photo similar entries, duplicate EPICs, preparation of supplements and integrated draft roll with reference to October 1, 2022, as the qualifying date is going on at present in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir.

The integrated draft Roll with reference to October 1, 2022, as the qualifying date will now be published by all EROs of the UT on September 15, 2022, marking the formal beginning of the revision activities, the notification has mentioned.

The revision activities which will begin on September 15, include the disposal of claims and objections received after the publication of the integrated draft electoral roll.

In order to provide more opportunities to the youth of Jammu and Kashmir, the Commission has extended the period for filing claims and objections from 30 days to 40 days i.e. September 15 to October 25, 2022. During this period, special camps will also be organized by CEO Jammu and Kashmir on weekends for which the date will be publicized separately.

During this period of filing claims and objections, any person desiring of getting his or her name included in the Electoral Roll or desiring to file any other claim for correction of an entry or any objection against any entry in the electoral roll will have multiple platforms available for doing so, viz; offline Mode, by filing a hard copy of the claim/objection in the prescribed Form before the ERO/AERO or BLO concerned online mode, by logging into https://www.nvsp.in portal or by downloading Voter Helpline App (VHA).

With the new amendments in the law, the Commission has also made the registration forms more user-friendly and simpler. The newly modified forms have come into force with effect from August 1, 2022. Now, Form 6 which was earlier being used for the Registration of new electors and for shifting from one constituency to another constituency, will be exclusively used for the registration of new electors.

It has been specified that there is no change in Form 6A. Form 7 which is used for an objection to proposed inclusion or for deletion of a name in the existing electoral roll shall remain to be for the same purpose with a slight modification that a provision for attaching a death certificate has also been incorporated. Form 8 has undergone a major change.

Form 8 now can be used for multiple purposes, viz., correction of any particulars in the roll, shifting of residence (within or outside constituency), replacement of EPIC, and marking of Person with Disability. Form 8A which was earlier used for shifting within constituencies has been abolished now, as the same provision is made in the new Form 8.

In addition to these a new Form 6B has been introduced for capturing the Aadhaar number of the existing electors. All Forms (wherever required) have been suitably modified to capture Aadhaar numbers from the new electors.

EPIC-Aadhaar linking

For linking of Aadhaar numbers with electoral Roll data, provision has been made in the modified registration forms to seek Aadhaar details of electors. A new Form-6B has also been introduced for collecting the Aadhaar number of existing electors.

However, no application for inclusion of a name in the electoral roll will be denied and no entries in the electoral roll will be deleted for the inability of an individual to furnish or intimate Aadhaar number. It has been emphasized that while handling the Aadhaar number of the applicants, the provision under Section 37 of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 must be adhered to.

“Under no circumstances should it go public. If the electors’ information is required to be put for public display, the Aadhaar details must be removed or masked. A time-bound drive is being started for the collection of Aadhaar numbers of the existing electors by or before April 1, 2023. Furnishing of Aadhaar numbers is purely voluntary. The objective of the programme is to establish the identity of electors and authentication of entries in the electoral roll,” it has been specified.

Field verifications, super checking for healthy electoral roll: For the purpose of improving the health of the electoral roll, the Election Commission has emphasized the need for field verification by the Booth Level Officers.

There is a mechanism for supervision and checking for enforcing strict accountability of the work performed by different levels of electoral machinery, such as Supervisors, EROs and AEROs by field verification. Similarly, DEOs, Roll Observers and CEOs also check the work done by EROs before the final decision on claims and objections is taken.

Besides, Officers from ECI and officers of CEOs are also deployed to further random checks and to supervise. Respective Divisional Commissioners have been designated Roll Observers in their respective divisions for the purpose of supervision of the Electoral Roll work.

Participative process involving BLAs

With a view to ensuring more involvement of political parties, the Commission has allowed Booth Level Agents (BLAs) of recognized political parties to file applications in bulk, subject to the condition that a BLA shall not submit more than 10 forms to BLO at one time/in one day.

If a BLA files more than 30 applications/forms during the entire period of filing claims and objections, then the cross verification must be done by ERO/AERO themselves.

Further, the BLA will also submit a list of application forms with a declaration that he has personally verified the particulars of the application forms and is satisfied that they are correct.

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