Update, 2 January 2019: The Election Commission of India (ECI) has further denied to provide information about the number of Voter IDs linked with Aadhaar. MediaNama had filed an appeal under the Right to Information Act, requesting for the information and documents that the ECI had earlier denied on the grounds that “no information is available in any physical form in record of the Commission.” The response can be read here.
While disposing the appeal, the first appellate authority reached the conclusion that “when the CPIO stated that information is not available in any material form, he meant to say that the information sought is not available in the Commission…” MediaNama, in its appeal, had also sought information on the money that was spent in the linking process, which the ECI had denied on the same grounds.
Note that, in September 2018, Rajat Kumar, the Chief Electoral Officer of Telangana had conceded that 8% or 22 lakh of the 2.8 crore voter names were deleted from the electoral roll. Kumar had accepted that the names were also deleted from the voter rolls in 2015 when the verification process was Aadhaar-based. This verification was eventually stopped after Supreme Court limited the use of Aadhaar and made it voluntary. At that time, Kumar mulled the possibility of name deletion due to a new software. As a result of this deletion, several voters were not able to cast their vote during the Telangana Assembly Elections.
Earlier, 5 November 2018: The Election Commission of India (ECI) does not have information about the number of Voter IDs linked to Aadhaar or the money spent on their linking “in any physical form”, it said in a response to an RTI filed by MediaNama. The current RTI also revealed that under NERPAP (see more below) “no Voter ID cards were deleted due to non-linking of Aadhaar”. By “any physical form”, the ECI means hard copies.
Amrita Johri, a member of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information told MediaNama that the non-availability of information in physical form cannot be an excuse to not provide the information. Johri added, “The principle of the Right to Information is that any information held by the government is accessible to me, subject (to) certain exemptions.. it doesn’t matter whether its held traditionally in the form of a file, electronically today or perhaps, tomorrow in yet some other form.”
NERPAP and the linking so far
In March this year, OP Rawat, the Chief Election Commissioner had said that 32 crore Aadhaar numbers had been linked to voter IDs, another 54.5 crore would be linked once they got a nod from the Supreme Court. In August last year, the ECI petitioned for the linkage of voter IDs and Aadhaar, in the Supreme Court.
- In August, 7 National and 34 State political parties urged the ECI to link Voter IDs with the Aadhaar card to weed out duplicate voter names.
- Last month, the Madras High Court issued notice in a petition appealing the linkage of Aadhaar with Voter ID. The Election Commission has informed the court that it supports the petition and linkage.
ECI had launched the National Electoral Roll Purification & Authentication Programme (NERPAP) across all the states and union territories with the major objective of linking of Aadhaar with the Electoral Roll database in March 2015. However, the commission suspended all activities related to collection/feeding/seeding of Aadhaar number after an interim order in August 2015 prevented it from doing so.
What the ECI did not answer
In MediaNama’s RTI, the ECI denied answers to the following questions due to the non-availability of information in “physical form” in the “record of the Commission” –
- How many Voter IDs are linked to Aadhaar?
- How many people were involved in the process of linking Voter IDs and the Aadhaar Card?
- Was any process of linking the Aadhaar and Voter ID outsourced? If yes, who did it? Kindly provide the list of private parties involved.
- Amount of money spent in the linking of Aadhaar and Voter Id?