Linking voter card to Aadhaar card

Published on - December 22, 2021

Concerns about the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill

Source: The Indian Express

Context: 

The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021, enabling “the linking of electoral roll data with the Aadhaar ecosystem”.

The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 seeks to amend the Representation of the People Act to bring in key reforms including voluntary linkage of voter ID with Aadhaar.

 

Changes Introduced:

The electoral registration officer may for the purpose of establishing the identity of any person require that such person may furnish the Aadhaar number given by the Unique Identification Authority of India as per the provisions of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016:

Provided that the electoral registration officer may also require the Aadhaar number from persons already included in the electoral roll for the purposes of authentication of entries in the electoral roll and to identify registration of the name of the same person in the electoral roll of more than one constituency or more than once in the same constituency.

Every person whose name is included in the electoral roll may intimate his Aadhaar number to such authority in such form and manner as may be prescribed, on or before a date to be notified by the Central Government in the Official Gazette.

No application for inclusion of name in the electoral roll shall be denied and no entries in the electoral roll shall be deleted for the inability of an individual to furnish or intimate Aadhaar number due to such sufficient cause as may be prescribed: Provided that such individual may be allowed to furnish such other alternate documents as may be prescribed.

Government’s argument for bringing the Bill

The main argument govt gives is that linking Aadhaar with Electoral rolls will solve the problem of multiple enrolments of the same person at different places. “Once Aadhaar linkage is achieved, The electoral roll data system will instantly alert The existence of previous registration(s) whenever a person applies for new registration. This Will help in cleaning the electoral roll to a great Extent and facilitate elector registration in the Location at which they are ‘ordinarily resident’.

 

Opposition’s Main argument to oppose

The main argument rotates around, that linking of voter IDs and Aadhaar violates the fundamental right to privacy as defined by the Supreme Court in the judgment.

 

Merits and Concerns Decoded

MERITS:

  • Curb the menace of multiple enrolment of the same person in different places
  • It helps in checking the entry of repeat, multiple, illegal, invalid, or false voters
  • Reducing voting fraud – check on duplication
  • Improved accessibility of voting - Improve Voter Participation – migrant workers.

 

CONCERNS:

  • In absence of data protection law, such integration can undermine the integrity of the electoral roll. 
  • Possibility of disenfranchisement of voters due to integration leading to violation of universal suffrage under Article 326 – as was witnessed in Andhra and Telangana.
  • Use of demographic information by the government for targeted advertising or possible deletion from electoral rolls given the reported scope for fraud with Aadhaar, this process could undermine the sanctity of the voter roll.
  • Linking of Aadhaar must also pass the test of the right to privacy under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution Synchronisation of Aadhaar (Residents) with EPIC (Citizens) - may allow voting rights to non-citizens
  • Challenge to counter Proportionality for EC - A law can be considered proportional only if there are no other less restrictive and equally effective alternatives or it does not have a disproportionate impact on the rights holder. 
  • Thus, any disenfranchisement caused by the linking of Aadhaar and Voter IDs would be legally impermissible (not allowed under Article 326 and RPAs), and particularly detrimental to those from marginalised communities and vulnerable sections.

 

Way Forward: 

There are some serious concerns on aadhar linkage to voters id’s that cannot be ignored but certainly can be managed if policies are implemented effectively.

Alongside we cannot ignore that this linkage will also help in the Usage of digital platforms to ensure good governance

  • Prevention of dissipation of social welfare
  • benefits; and Enablement of innovation
  • and the spread of knowledge.