Context: Instances have been reported where block level officers have asked individuals to link their Aadhaar with their Voter IDs, failing which their Voter IDs could be cancelled.
- This comes in the aftermath of the Election Commission’s (EC) campaign to promote the linkage of Voter ID and Aadhaar that began on August 1.
Why does the government want this?
- The EC conducts regular exercises to maintain an updated and accurate record of the voter base.
- A part of this exercise is to weed out duplication of voters, such as migrant workers who may have been registered more than once on the electoral rolls in different constituencies or for persons registered multiple times within the same constituency.
- As per the government, linkage of Aadhaar with voter IDs will assist in ensuring that only one Voter ID is issued per citizen of India.
Is the linking of Aadhaar with one’s Voter ID mandatory?
- In December 2021, Parliament passed the Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021 to amend the Representation of the People Act, 1950, inter alia.
- Section 23(4) was inserted in the RPA, 1950.
- It states that the electoral registration officer may “for the purpose of establishing the identity of any person” or “for the purposes of authentication of entries in electoral roll of more than one constituency or more than once in the same constituency” for citizens already enrolled, require them to furnish their Aadhaar numbers.
- To reflect this government notified changes to the Registration of Electors Rules, 1960.
- Rule 26B was added to provide that “every person whose name is listed in the roll may intimate his Aadhar number to the registration officer”.
- Although, the use of discretionary language throughout the amendments have been accompanied by assurances by both the government and the EC that linkage of the Aadhaar with Voter ID is optional, this does not seem to be reflected in Form 6B issued under the new Rule 26B.
The preference to use Aadhaar for verification and authentication, both by the state and private sector, stems from two reasons.
- First, at the end of 2021, 99.7% of the adult Indian population had an Aadhaar card.
- Second, since Aadhaar allows for biometric authentication, Aadhaar based authentication and verification is considered more reliable, quicker and cost efficient when compared to other IDs.
- In Puttaswamy, one of the questions that the Supreme Court explored was whether the mandatory linking of Aadhaar with bank accounts was constitutional or not.
- The Court held that depriving a person of their right to property for non-linkage fell foul of the test of proportionality.
- It needs to be considered whether requiring an Aadhaar holder to mandatorily provide Aadhaar for authentication or verification would not be considered violative of their informational autonomy (right to privacy) which would allow them to decide which official document they want to use for verification and authentication.
- Moreover, in Lal Babu Hussein (1995), the Supreme Court had held that the Right to vote cannot be disallowed by insisting only on four proofs of identity — voters can rely on any other proof of identity and obtain the right to vote.
- The preference to Aadhaar for the purposes of determining voters is puzzling as Aadhaar is only a proof of residence and not a proof of citizenship thus linkage will not remove voters who are not citizens of India from the electoral rolls.
- The estimate of error rates in biometric based authentication differ widely. As per the UIDAI in 2018, Aadhaar based biometric authentication had a 12% error rate.
- Lastly, civil society has highlighted that linking of the two databases of electoral rolls and Aadhaar could lead to the linkage of Aadhaar’s “demographic” information with voter ID information, and lead to violation of the right to privacy and surveillance measures by the state.
It is important that the government clarifies through correction in Form 6B that the linking is not mandatory and expedites the enactment of a data protection legislation that allays concerns of unauthorised processing of personal data held by the government.
Must Read: Representation of the People Act
Source: The Hindu
Previous Year Question
Q.1) Consider the following statements: (2020)
- Aadhaar metadata cannot be stored for more than three months.
- State cannot enter into any contract with private corporations for sharing of Aadhaar data.
- Aadhaar is mandatory for obtaining insurance products.
- Aadhaar is mandatory for getting benefits funded out of the Consolidated Fund of India.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
- 1 and 4 only
- 2 and 4 only
- 3 only
- 1, 2 and 3