29 Aug 2022 Aadhaar-Voter ID linkage
News: Reports have surfaced online of instances where block level officers have asked individuals to link their Aadhaar with their Voter IDs, failing which their Voter IDs could be canceled.
GS Paper 2:Government Policies and Interventions for Development in various sectors and Issues arising out of their Design and Implementation; E-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential.
What are the recent amendments in Representation of the People Act, 1950?
Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021 passed in parliament to amend the Representation of the People Act, 1950.
- Section 23(4) was inserted in the Representation of the People Act, 1950. It states that the electoral registration officer may “for the purpose of establishing the identity of any person” or “for the purposes of authentication of entries in electoral roll of more than one constituency or more than once in the same constituency” for citizens already enrolled, require them to furnish their Aadhaar numbers.
- Changes in the Registration of Electors Rules, 1960. Rule 26B was added to provide that “every person whose name is listed in the roll may intimate his Aadhar number to the registration officer”.
- Form 6B provides the format in which Aadhaar information may be submitted to the electoral registration officer. Form 6B provides the voter to either submit their Aadhaar number or any other listed document. However, the element of choice that has been incorporated in the amendments seem to be negated or at the very least thrown into confusion.
What are the reasons behind linking voter IDs with Aadhaar?
- Coverage of Aadhaar exceeds that of any other officially valid document such as driver’s license, ration cards, PAN cards etc that are mostly applied for specific purposes. At the end of 2021, 99.7% of the adult Indian population had an Aadhaar card.
- Due to Biometric authentication Aadhaar based authentication and verification is more reliable, quicker and cost efficient .
- Linkage of voter IDs with Aadhaar will clean up the electoral rolls by weeding out duplicate entries, bogus voters and making the electoral process more credible.
- As per the government, linkage of Aadhaar with voter IDs will assist in ensuring that only one Voter ID is issued per citizen of India.
- Streamline electoral rolls and the process of registration of migrated voters without duplication in the rolls and to curb the menace of multiple enrolment of the same person in different places.
- The changes in the Election laws will allow the Electoral Registration Officers to seek Aadhaar of individuals who wish to register as voters and from individuals who are already registered as voters to establish the identity of the voter.
- Digital and remote voting process as a voter being able to vote from different locations across the country or abroad, even while they are traveling.
What are various concerns associated with linking voter IDs with Aadhaar?
- Confusion throughout Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021 whether the linkage of the Aadhaar with Voter ID is optional or not made the choices complicated. Rule 26B of Registration of Electors Rules, 1960 provide assurances by both the government and the EC that linkage of the Aadhaar with Voter ID is optional while on the other hand Form 6B provides the format of submission of Aadhaar information where the option to submit other listed documents is exercisable only if the voter is “not able to furnish their Aadhaar number because they do not have an Aadhaar number”.
- Already there are several discrepancies and errors are widespread across various government schemes linked with Aadhaar. As per the Unique Identification Authority of India in 2018, Aadhaar based biometric authentication had a 12% error rate.
- Constitutional violation as Supreme Court in Lal Babu Hussein case (1995), had held that the Right to vote cannot be disallowed by insisting only on four proofs of identity — voters can rely on any other proof of identity and obtain the right to vote.
- May turn into futile exercise: As Aadhaar is only a proof of residence and not a proof of citizenship. Therefore, verifying voter identity against this will only help in tackling duplication but will not remove voters who are not citizens of India from the electoral rolls.
- Violations to an individual’s right to privacy granted under Puttaswamy Judgment (Aadhaar Card judgment): It needs to be considered whether requiring an Aadhaar holder to mandatorily provide Aadhaar for authentication or verification would not be considered violative of their informational autonomy (right to privacy) which would allow them to decide which official document they want to use for verification and authentication.
- Linkage may help in creating voter profiles based on age, location, religion, etc which may be used to influence the voting process. Since, there are inadequate data protection laws, this will also mean that the party in power may be able to access, misuse the data and manipulate the results. Voter profiling will also lead to possibilities of data weaponization which in turn shall mean disaster for democratic processes.
- Reports of Coercions despite clarifications from various government authorities that the linking of Aadhaar with the voter identity card is “voluntary”, there have been instances of people being warned by booth-level officers that their voter ID would be canceled if it is not linked to their Aadhaar number.
- Linkage may lead to selective disenfranchisement of a certain class of voters who opposes to a particular political ideology. For example: Recently, Aadhaar-linkage with voter identity cards in the Assembly elections in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh led to the arbitrary deletion of eligible voters on a large scale.
- Enable prior consent mechanism by providing control, rights, and options to the citizens to define the usage of their personal data by government agencies, in context to all linked ids and define robust policies which will use the personal data precisely in proportion to the welfare needs of the population.
- Proper data protection law that clearly defines the jurisdiction of legislature, executive and judiciary.
- ECI should limit itself to utilizing existing proofs for voter authentication and Aadhaar declaration should remain voluntary.
- Government should clarify through correction in Form 6B that the linking is not mandatory and expedites the enactment of a data protection legislation that allays concerns of unauthorized processing of personal data held by the government.
Sources: Scroll, The Hindu, Zee News, Indian Express, The Hindu
- The Hindu:- https://bit.ly/3QKzIiR ; https://bit.ly/3BsgtWN ; https://bit.ly/3xahK2i
- Indian Express:-https://bit.ly/3ROE1um
- Zee News:-https://bit.ly/3DczlKs