Indian citizens will soon be able to link their Aadhar number with their voter identification to authenticate their entry in the electoral rolls, as per a notification by the Ministry of Law and Justice. The provision was part of the new rules called the Registration of Electors (Amendment) Rules, 2022, announced by the Union Government in consultation with the Election Commission of India (ECI).
Empowering every voter!
Hon’ble PM Sh @narendramodi ji’s govt.’s historic step to reform the electoral process.
In consultation with the Election Commission of India, Govt. has issued four notifications under The Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021.#8YearsOfSeva pic.twitter.com/BIqkc5qQXX
— Kiren Rijiju (@KirenRijiju) June 17, 2022
Why it matters: The measure was first announced as part of the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 amid stiff opposition in the Indian Parliament. Many critics had stated that the move was against the fundamental Right to Privacy and that it will enable surveillance and profiling of voters. It is likely that this notification will also come under fire.
What is the basis of these rules: The notification has been issued under the Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021, which was passed in the Lok Sabha on December 20 and the Rajya Sabha on December 21.
Is the provision mandatory: A cursory glance of the form suggests that voters do not have to share their number mandatorily but Apar Gupta, Executive Director, Internet Freedom Foundation, explained in a tweet that choice was absent from the forms.
He said that the exception was only available to those who did not have an Aadhar number.
There is an absence of choice in the forms to the provision of Aadhaar. The only exception is for those who, “don’t have a Aadhaar number”. Any false declaration is liable to prosecution. Hence, there is a mandatory provision for Aadhaar with electoral rolls. https://t.co/jwydzlYxd4
— Apar (@apar1984) June 18, 2022
“Special provision for providing Aadhaar number by existing electors.— Every person whose name is listed in the roll may [emphasis added] intimate his Aadhaar number to the registration officer in Form 6B in accordance with sub-section (5) of section 23 of the Act.” read the draft.
When will the rules come into effect: The rules will come into effect on August 1, 2022.
Why is the government adopting this measure: The government’s argument is that linking Aadhaar with electoral rolls will solve the problem of multiple enrolments of the same person at different places, a report in Indian Express said in December last year.
- “This will help in cleaning the electoral roll to a great extent and facilitate voter registration in the location at which they are ‘ordinarily resident’,” a government official was quoted as saying.
- It was the Election Commission that had started a National Electoral Roll Purification and Authentication Programme that sought to link Aadhaar to voter IDs, in order to delete duplicated names in March, 2015.
Why is this measure problematic: Several parliamentarians like Asaduddin Owaisi and D. Ravikumar opposed the bill because it was a violation of privacy. Owaisi pointed out that a similar exercise that was taken up in a state earlier, had resulted in the mass deletion of voters from the electoral list.
- Amendment violates the independence of constitutional process: Owaisi said that voter enrollment and the exercise of issuing voter IDs are done by the Election Commission of India. “Subjecting voter enrollment to Aadhaar violates the independence and sanctity of the constitutional process,” he had said then.
- Aadhaar is error-prone: “Studies show that Aadhaar is riddled with more errors than EPIC database. It is unheard of that an error-prone and insecure database is used to authenticate a relatively secure and frequently updated database,” Owaisi added.
- No more secret ballot: “It (linkage) will end up violating the principles of secret ballot, universal adult franchise and free and fair elections,” he said in his remarks.
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