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UP man arrested for creating over 10,000 fake voter IDs after hacking Election Commission website

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After a preliminary investigation, the police found that the accused had access to the same password used by officials while the commission maintained that its database was safe and secure.

A 24-year-old man allegedly hacked into the website of the Election Commission of India (ECI) from Saharanpur district in Uttar Pradesh to create over 10,000 fake voter IDs, according to a Press Trust of India (PTI) report. The Uttar Pradesh Police arrested the accused, Vipul Saini, on Thursday last week from Maccharhedi village in Saharanpur.   

Such incidents threaten the security of data collected by the Election Commission, which can be used to create fake identities to cast votes and influence elections.  

Key details about the incident and the accused

The police informed PTI that their initial findings revealed that:

  • More than 10,000 fake voter IDs were created in a span of three months. 
  • Saini was paid around Rs 100-200 per voter ID. 
  • His bank account contained Rs 60 lakh; it was promptly frozen after his arrest. The police are trying to ascertain the source of this money.  
  • Vipul Saini logged into the ECI website using the same password as ECI officials as per a Times of India report
  • Two computers and hard drives were seized from Saini’s home. 
  • The accused worked for a man named Armaan Malik from Madhya Pradesh.  

The authorities have sought the court’s permission to bring Saini to Delhi to interrogate him further. PTI also reported that Saini will be probed for links with any anti-national or terrorist forces.  

The Election Commission’s response 

An ECI spokesperson conveyed to PTI that assistant electoral roll officers (AERO) are mandated to provide citizen-centric services, including printing of voter ID cards and timely distribution.

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“A data entry operator of one of the AERO offices had illegally shared his user ID and password with a private unauthorised service provider in Saharanpur’s Nakud town to print some voter ID cards,” he was quoted as saying by PTI. 

The ECI spokesperson added that the data entry operator and the service provider have been arrested by the police.  

Concerned about the nature of the crime, Akhilesh Yadav, former chief minister of UP, tweeted on Friday: “The news of a youth making a fake voter ID card by ‘digital burglary’ on the website of the UP Election Commission is very serious. There should be an investigation in the entire state for such scams, to know whether it is getting state shelter. It is not only a question of security of the Election Commission but also of dignity.”

ECI’s push for linking Aadhaar and voter IDs

In order to avoid duplication in electoral rolls and ensure the possibility of voting by migrant populations living outside their registered constituencies, the Election Commission has been linking Aadhaar and electoral photo voter ID (EPICs) since 2015 under the National Electoral Roll Purification and Authentication Programme (NERPAP).

But it had suspended all such activities after the Supreme Court of India passed an order stating that a law will have to be passed by the Parliament to make Aadhaar mandatory to avail certain services.

The Election Commission has since then lobbied for a push to link Aadhaar with EPIC. The ECI approached the Ministry of Law and Justice to push an amendment through the Parliament to start the linking exercise. The government has already said in a parliamentary response last year that it would amend the Representation of the People Act to facilitate this linkage.

In January this year, the EC announced that it will issue digital voter IDs and accept e-KYC on the National Voters’ Services Portal. This is considered to be the groundwork for the eventual linking of Aadhaar and EPIC.

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I cover several beats such as Crypto, Telecom, and OTT at MediaNama. I can be found loitering at my local theatre when I am off work consuming movies by the dozen.

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