After the passage of The Registration of Births and Deaths (Amendment) Act in the Lok Sabha on August 1 and the Rajya Sabha on August 7, the new Act is set to be implemented pan-India starting October 1, 2023.
What is The Registration of Births and Deaths (Amendment) Act, 2023?
The Registration of Births and Deaths (Amendment) Act, 2023, which was passed by the Parliament during the Monsoon Session earlier this year, is scheduled to come into force on October 1.
This act introduces several significant changes, including the use of a birth certificate as a standalone document for various purposes such as admission to educational institutions, issuance of driving licenses, preparation of voter lists, obtaining Aadhaar numbers, registering marriages, and securing government jobs.
The Registration of Births and Deaths (Amendment) Bill, 2023, was initially presented by Minister of State Nityanand Rai during the Parliament’s Monsoon Session, sparking debates and concerns about its implications for Sikkim’s unique legal framework. As the implementation date approaches, stakeholders continue to engage in discussions and deliberations to address the potential consequences of this legislative amendment.
Opposition political parties and organizations denounce the Registration of Birth and Death Bill 2023
Sikkimay Nagarik Samaj, a non-political organization, was among the first to denounce the new Registration of Births and Deaths (Amendment) Bill, 2023. Passang Sherpa, General Secretary of Sikkimay Nagarik Samaj, raised concerns on September 19 about how this change might impact the existing laws of Sikkim, especially Rule 4 (4) of the Sikkim Government Establishment Rules, 1974.
“This could potentially lead to more people from Sikkim being eligible for employment opportunities solely based on their birth certificates. We want the state government to clarify its position on this matter and whether it has communicated its concerns to the Central Government.”
“In the long run, this change might affect job prospects in the state. We are here to inform the government, political parties, and organizations in Sikkim about these concerns and seek their views on how the Sikkim government is approaching this issue,” added the statement.
Sherpa, while seeking clarification from the Sikkim Government regarding the law, stated, “We want to know the views of the state government and the central government on the issue. We have given them 10 days’ time to provide their perspectives. If no response is received within this timeframe, we will convene an all-party meeting and a gathering of various organizations. During these meetings, we will work towards adopting a resolution to address this concern. This resolution will be sent to the central government, similar to the process undertaken in the case of the Uniform Civil Code.”
Likewise, the newly formed political party, Citizen Action Party, raised its concern over the implementation of the act on September 20.
CAP’s concern is over the provision that allows the amended endorsement of a birth certificate for a government job in State and Central establishments and even local bodies. They argue that this eligibility based on birth certificates is in conflict with Rule 4 (4), an old law of Sikkim duly protected under Article 371F, where only Sikkim Subject Certificate and Certificate of Identification holders are eligible for State government jobs.
Narendra Adhikari, Working President of CAP Sikkim, stated, “Sikkim is a state with special Constitutional provisions under Article 371F. This provision will completely dilute Article 371F. It is an attack on our special status and Rule 4/4, where only Sikkimese citizens are eligible for State government jobs. It is a big injustice for the locals.”
In a series of denouncements of the bill, Pawan Chamling, former Chief Minister and Sikkim Democratic Front President, also denounced the bill on September 22.
Chamling stressed that the new bill may lead to a potential erosion of the state’s unique legal provisions, particularly Article 371F, with the implementation of the Registration of Births and Deaths (Amendment) Act, 2023. Addressing the gathering on the occasion of his 73rd birthday, he said, “After October 1, when the Registration of Birth and Death Amendment Bill, 2023, takes effect, we will lose Rule 44, Land Revenue Order No. 1, and Article 371F, along with old laws of Sikkim. The very spirit of Article 371F will vanish.”
One of the primary concerns raised by Chamling is the potential impact on the status of those born in Sikkim who do not belong to the state’s native population. He said, “There are more than 3 lakh working-class individuals in Sikkim who are not native Sikkimese. Their offspring, numbering over 1 lakh, are born in Sikkim. With the implementation of the new act, these individuals will become eligible for job opportunities and medical seats that were previously reserved exclusively for Sikkimese natives. In essence, they will be placed on an equal footing with the Bhutia Lepcha community of Sikkim.”
Furthermore, Chamling criticized the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha government for its silence on the Registration of Births and Deaths (Amendment) Act, 2023. He questioned the government’s inaction and stated, “The Sikkim government is not addressing the bill at all. The state government should be held responsible, and we seek answers. Was it not the duty of the government to safeguard Article 371F?”
Sikkim Chronicle tried reaching out to the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha Party (Ruling front). However, no response was collected from the party.