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Choose right to privacy or right to vote, says retd SC judge: report

Retired Supreme Court judge Vikramjit Sen has told the Election Commission of India (ECI) to make sure that “anti-social elements” do not cast “illegal votes” and impair the voting process, which is why mandatory linking of Aadhaar with voter IDs is “necessary”, reports The Print. Sen insisted that before the next state elections take place, such a linking should be made mandatory to “ensure that the electoral process is efficient, transparent and robust”. The ECI had sought Sen’s comments on the matter amid a push in the Commission to link the two IDs in order to check voting malpractice. The linking process, if mandated, would require an amendment to the Representation of the People Act, 1952, which governs elections in India.

“Choosing between the right to privacy and the right to vote”

Sen made a clear distinction between people who saw possession of Aadhaar as an “invasion on their privacy” and people who “were unable to get it [Aadhaar]”. The former, according to the retired judge, should also be “willing to give up their votes”. Moreover, Sen said that even under the hypothesis that having an Aadhaar infringes one’s privacy, “people should make a choice”.

It is about choosing which right is more important for you, and balancing — the right to privacy or the right to vote
– Vikramjit Sen

ECI’s tryst with Aadhaar for ‘purification’ of polls

The ECI has been looking at the possible linking of Aadhaar with voter IDs since 2015. The institution had launched the National Electoral Roll Purification & Authentication Programme (NERPAP) across all states and union territories with the major objective of linking 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 SC order in August the same year prevented it from doing so. Its worth noting that in response to an RTI filed by MediaNama, the ECI had said in January this year that it has “no information in any physical form” about the number of Aadhaar cards linked to the Voter Id. It also said that “no Voter Ids were deleted due to non-linking of Aadhaar.”

  • In August 2017, the ECI petitioned for the linkage of voter IDs and Aadhaar, in the Supreme Court. In March 2018, the then Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat said that 32 crore Aadhaar numbers had been linked to voter IDs in just three months as part of the NERPAP exercise.
  • Following that, 7 National and 34 State political parties urged the Election Commission of India to link Voter IDs with the Aadhaar card to weed out duplicate voter names. The ECI had convened an all-party meeting with the parties, in August 2018, to discuss electoral reforms ahead of assembly elections in four states.
  • In October the same year, the Madras High Court issued notice in a petition appealing the linkage of Aadhaar with Voter ID which the Election Commission supported.

Multiple cases of missing voter names in Telangana

  • Srinivas Kodali, a data scientist and researcher from Hyderabad, had filed a public interest litigation against the Election Commission of India (ECI), alleging that the names of 27 lakh voters in Telangana and 19 lakh in Andhra Pradesh were deleted using software and without following required procedure, under the National Electoral Roll Purification and Authentication Programme (NERPAP) in 2015.
  • 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.

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