Issues with the Aadhaar-Voter ID card Linkage

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    In Context

    • Recently, the Supreme Court issued notice to the Union government on a plea challenging the power of the Election Commission (EC) to link the Aadhaar database with voter ID cards.

    More about the news

    • Issue:
      • Electoral reforms:
        • In December 2021, the Central government passed The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021.
          • The bill amended the Representation of the People Act, 1950 and the Representation Act, 1951 to implement certain electoral reforms.
      • The amendment:
        • The amendment stated that an electoral registration officer may require a person to furnish their Aadhaar number for the purposes of “establishing the identity of a person” or for the “authentication of entries in electoral roll and to identify registration of name of the same person in the electoral roll of more than one constituency or more than once in the same constituency.”
      • Not voluntary in action: 
        • The updated Act also stated that no individual will be denied inclusion in the electoral roll, nor have their names deleted from the roll if they are unable to furnish their Aadhaar number due to “sufficient cause as may be prescribed”. 
        • Such individuals may be allowed to provide alternative documents prescribed by the government.
    • The petition:
      • Right to Vote & secrecy of the votes:
        • The petitioner, argued that the right to vote is one of the “most sacred rights” and cannot be denied if a person lacks an Aadhaar card.
        • It also stated that the linkage would compromise the secrecy of the votes.
      • K. S Puttaswamy v Union of India & Ors:
        • The petitioner argued that the Aadhar card can only be made mandatory if some benefit of subsidy is sought and not if there is an intrinsic right, such as the right to vote.
          • This is the stated judgment in Justice K. S Puttaswamy v Union of India & Ors, which dealt with the validity of the Aadhar card.
      • Questioning the independence of the EC:
        • The petition argued that the linkage poses a major threat to the independence of the Election Commission (EC).
        • The preparation of the electoral rolls is made dependent on the processes of Aadhaar, a process EC has no control over. 

    Other Challenges & criticisms

    • Infringing Fundamental right:
      • The linking of voter IDs and Aadhaar violates the fundamental right to privacy as defined by the Supreme Court in the judgment.
    • Influencing the voting process:
      • Many have also flagged concerns that the linkage would help in creating voter profiles that may be used to influence the voting process.
    • Data breach:
      • The linkage would open the ecosystem to a possibility of a data breach by any agency or non-state actors.
    • No legislative competence:
      • It is beyond the legislative competence of the Aadhaar Act to be linked with the electoral laws.
    • Voting rights of non-citizens:
      • Aadhaar is meant for the residents of India and all residents are not Indians. 
      • By linking Aadhaar with the electoral process, we are potentially giving voting rights to non-citizens.

    Significance of linking link electoral rolls to Aadhaar

    • Issue of multiple enrollments:
      • The government claims the linkage will solve the problem of multiple enrollments of the same person at different places. 
    • How will this linkage help?
      • Once the 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’, a government official had said earlier.

    Way Ahead

    • The Election Commission should list the safeguards built into the electoral roll data platform for “protecting the privacy of individuals”.

    Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) & Aadhar

    • Aadhaar Act & Establishment of UIDAI:
      • The UIDAI is a statutory authority established under the provisions of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 (“Aadhaar Act 2016”) on 12 July 2016 by the Government of India, under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY). 
    • Need of UIDAI:
      • UIDAI was created to issue Unique Identification numbers (UID), named as “Aadhaar”, to all residents of India. The UID had to be –
        • Robust enough to eliminate duplicate and fake identities, and 
        • Verifiable and authenticable in an easy, cost-effective way. 
      • As on 31st October 2021, the Authority has issued 131.68 crore Aadhaar numbers to the residents of India.
    • Under the Aadhaar Act 2016, UIDAI is responsible for:
      • Aadhaar enrolment and authentication, including operation and management of all stages of Aadhaar life cycle,
      • Developing the policy, procedure, and system for issuing Aadhaar numbers to individuals and 
      • Perform authentication and the security of identity information and authentication records of individuals.

    Source: TH