In a renewed effort to seed Indian citizens’ Voter-IDs with Aadhaar, the government has sent a letter to the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). However, contrary to previous such efforts, the linking may not require amending the law this time.
According to a report by the Indian Express, the law ministry has sent a letter to UIDAI, at the behest of the Election Commission of India (ECI), to begin the process for new voters under Rule 3 of the Aadhaar Authentication for Good Governance (Social Welfare, Innovation and Knowledge) Rules, 2020.
Previously, ECI had proposed amending the Representation of the People Act, 1950 to allow the seeding. The decision was criticised by various privacy experts who expressed concerns that it could lead to voter profiling and disenfranchisement due to fraud in the Aadhaar database.
What the Aadhaar authentication for good governance rules say
According to rule 3, voluntary Aadhaar authentication can take place for the following purposes:
- For use of digital platforms for good governance
- To prevent dissipation of social welfare benefits
- To spread knowledge and enable innovation
The process of approving such Aadhaar authentication
The rules lay down that any central or state government ministry or department requiring Aadhaar authentication has to write a proposal with its justification to the Central government, who will then make a reference to the UIDAI. Following this, if the UIDAI is satisfied that the proposal is in accordance with its rules and the Aadhaar Act, it shall allow the authentication.
Earlier attempts at linking Aadhaar with voter-IDs
In 2015, the ECI began the National Electoral Roll Purification and Authentication Programme (NERPAP) under which 38 crore Voter-IDs were linked with Aadhaar, which also led to lakhs reportedly getting kicked off voting lists. The Supreme Court later restricted the use of Aadhaar to distribute welfare services, thus stopping the project.
In 2017, the ECI filed a petition before the Supreme Court to link Aadhaar with Voter-IDs.
In 2018, 7 national and 34 state-level political parties urged the ECI to link Voter-IDs with Aadhaar to weed out duplicate voter names.
In 2019, the ECI sent a letter to the law ministry proposing amendments to the Representation of the People Act to facilitate the linking of Aadhaar and Voter-IDs. In March, the law ministry said in Parliament that the proposal was under consideration.
In 2020, the ECI announced that it will now start issuing digital voter IDs and accept e-KYC, presumably Aadhaar-based, on the National Voters’ Services Portal. The same month it was reported that the ECI was going to begin mock trials to test remote voting facilities based on blockchain. A subsequent report revealed that the ECI had proposed using three methods for voter verification: Iris and fingerprint-based biometric verification, voice-biometric verification, and facial recognition.
In 2021, the Telangana government announced plans to test a smartphone-based eVoting solution that leverages technologies such as blockchain, facial recognition, and Aadhaar authentication to record one’s vote.
- Election Commission to start e-KYC for Voter IDs, as government considers linking Aadhaar to EPIC
- EC will create a platform for Aadhaar-Voter ID linkage: Senior Election Commission official
- Parliament: Election Commission claims tight ‘airgap’ between electoral rolls and Aadhaar database
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