The Representation of the People Act and the Aadhaar Act should be amended so that the Election Commission can obtain and use people’s Aadhaar numbers for “verification of voter identity” – that’s what the letter that the ECI sent to the law ministry on August 13 reads, according to The Print. The EC wrote that it was “keen” to use Aadhar numbers of citizens for “cleaning electoral rolls”; it would be in “national interest” it added. The Commission has also clarified that Aadhaar numbers will not be put in public domain, to ensure the privacy of individuals according to the report.
(Nikhil adds) Please note that:
- Foreign nationals can get Aadhaar: foreign nationals living in India can also apply for and obtain Aadhaar numbers. Even Pakistani nationals have Aadhaar cards.
- Aadhaar is not a proof of identity: there is no verification of ID proofs or a physical verification of applicants. Debayan Roy, a journalist with CNN-IBN, was able to get an Aadhaar in a fake name by using a fake drivers license. Terror suspects have been caught with Aadhaar cards.
- Aadhaar is not a proof of residence or address: There is no physical verification of residence status done. In fact, the form only gets applicants to give an undertaking that they’ve been in the country for at least 182 days in the preceding 12 months.
- It’s easily fake-able: Aadhaar is a number, not a card. There are apps online that allow for the creation of Aadhaar cards. But you don’t even need an Aadhaar modification app. Users can modify the PDF of an Aadhaar card using any PDF editing application to change their name, age, photograph or address.
That it is being used as an address proof, an ID proof or even is in itself dangerous.
The ‘Link Aadhaar with Voter IDs’ bandwagon
The appeal from the EC, to bring about amendments, especially in the Representation of the People Act would also make the linkage of Aadhaar and Voter IDs a possibility – something that the EC and several political parties have been wanting for a long time now:
- In July, Maharastra CM, Devendra Fadnavis wrote a letter to the EC urging it to link Aadhaar with voter IDs. The minister wrote that the linkage will bring about transparency in the election process, and help detect duplicate voters.
- Interestingly, the demand for linking Aadhaar with voter IDs seems to cut across party and ideological lines – Fadnavis’ letter to the EC came just weeks after members from an opposition party in Maharastra – the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) – had recommended the linkage.
- Apart from the political route, the judicial route is also being taken to make this linkage possible. Advocate Ashwini Upadhyay petitioned in the Delhi High Court on July 15 to link Aadhaar with election identity cards.
ECI’s tryst with Aadhaar for ‘purification’ of polls
The Election Commission itself began Aadhaar and Voter ID linkage in 2015 under its National Electoral Roll Purification & Authentication Programme (NERPAP). However, the commission had to suspend all activities related to collection/feeding/seeding of Aadhaar number after an interim SC order in August the same year stopped it from doing so. It is also worth noting that the ECI had sought retired Supreme Court Judge Vikramjit Sen’s comments on the possible linkage of Aadhaar and Voter IDs, who said that people should choose between the right to privacy or right to vote.
- 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.