The Election Commission wants to link Aadhaar details of persons to the voter electoral database again and has petitioned the Supreme Court to allow it. The Election Commission had filed an application with the Supreme Court on July 4, 2017, for the same.

“The matter is presently sub-judice. As the matter is still pending before the Hon’ble Supreme Court, the Election Commission has not reviewed its instructions mentioned above,” the ministry of technology and IT said in an answer to a question in the Lok Sabha. “Based on the outcome of the case, the Election Commission will consider the proposal of linking Aadhaar number for various electoral services, at appropriate time,” the ministry added.

The Election Commission had launched National Electoral Roll Purification& Authentication Programme (NERPAP) on March 2015 and was trying to link it to the Aadhaar database but an interim order in August 2015 from the court prevented linking of Aadhaar to voter rolls.

“The Unique Identification Number or the Aadhaar card will not be used by the respondents for any purpose other than the PDS Scheme and in particular for the purpose of distribution of foodgrains, etc. and cooking fuel, such as kerosene. The Aadhaar card may also be used for the purpose of the LPG Distribution Scheme,” the court had said.

After the government passed the Aadhaar Act and operationalized it with a legal framework in July, the central government has made Aadhaar linking mandatory for almost all aspects of life. It is quickly turning out to be a tool to become a surveillance state.

  • It modified the Prevention of Money Laundering rules and made it mandatory to link Aadhaar to bank accounts.
  • It is now mandatory to link mobile phone numbers Aadhaar.
  • Meanwhile, the government ordered that Aadhaar should be linked to PAN cards to file income tax returns. The SC ordered a partial stay on linking Aadhaar to PAN numbers in June.
  • The government also issued a directive to ensure 100% Aadhaar enrolment of Students by 30th of September 2017.
  • We can go on and on.

Meanwhile, the SC has been hearing cases on making Aadhaar mandatory for various services and has morphed into a broader case whether Indian citizens have the right to privacy, with the cases now being split: a 9 judge bench is looking into whether privacy is a fundamental right or not, while a 5 judge bench will subsequently look into issues related to Aadhaar. The attorney general of India has argued before the court” “Violation of privacy doesn’t mean anything because privacy is not a guaranteed right”.

Why it should not be allowed

Aadhaar is a proof of residence, and not a proof of citizenship, and only citizens are allowed to vote. This is perhaps a means for the government for figure out which Aadhaar card holders are citizens and which aren’t. There is also an idea doing the rounds that virtual voting might be made possible using Aadhaar. Back in 2011, Gujarat tried e-Voting for municipal elections.

The danger with such linkage lies in profiling of citizens, and linking their profiles to either how their constituency votes, or in case of Aadhaar based remote voting, doing away with the secrecy of the vote and tracking how each individual votes.

The idea of linking the voter ID to a unique identifier itself is not new: In September 2016, Rajesh Jain, the founder of NetCore, was appointed part-time member of UIDAI. Jain had suggested combining Voter ID card data and mobile phone numbers and run mobile marketing campaigns for political parties in 2013. In addition, we have seen how analytics firm Cambridge Analytica helped to manipulate voters in the 2016 US presidential election and the Brexit vote by building psychological profiles through meta data on social networks.