Exchanged Enclaves

India's new citizens to get voting rights

The Indian government will place a bill in parliament to amend electoral laws to give voting rights to people who became citizens of the country following the recent exchange of enclaves with Bangladesh.

A meeting of the Indian cabinet yesterday gave its nod to amend Section 11 of the Delimitation Act, 2002 and Section 9 of the Representation of the People Act, 1950, in this regard, said an official statement.

More than 14,000 people of 51 enclaves, that became part of India, have become its citizens.

The budget session would begin on February 23 and the proposed bill is likely to be introduced on March 1.

The plan is to get it passed by both the Houses of parliament by March 4 so that the Election Commission can begin the delimitation exercise, said sources.

Once passed, the proposed Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2016 will enable the EC to carry out limited delimitation of state legislature and parliamentary constituencies in Cooch Behar district of West Bengal.

In July last year, Bangladesh and India exchanged 162 enclaves.

The term of the 294-member West Bengal legislature ends on May 29 this year and fresh elections are likely to be held before that.

Sources in the Indian law ministry said that at a recent meeting between officials of the ministry and the EC, the poll watchdog made it clear that it was necessary to grant voting rights to these people as the assembly polls in West Bengal were nearing.

The enclaves were exchanged pursuant to the 1974 India-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement and Protocol and Instruments of Ratification signed during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Bangladesh on June 6-7 last year.