Aadhaar-Voter ID Linking

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    • Recently, some reports highlighted the state of coercion emerging in Aadhaar-voter ID linking.

    About

    • Not voluntary in action: Despite clarifications from various government authorities that the linking of Aadhaar with the voter identity card is “voluntary”, there have been instances of people being warned by booth-level officers that their voter ID would be canceled if it is not linked to their Aadhaar number.
    • Double standards: 
      • Submission of Aadhaar number in Form 6B is voluntary: No entry in electoral roll shall be deleted on the ground of non-submission of Aadhaar number. Purpose of obtaining Aadhaar number is for authentication of electors’ entries in electoral roll & extending better electoral services.
      • Contentious Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021: It allows for the linking of electoral data with the Aadhaar number and was passed by Parliament in December 2021, amid strong protests by the Opposition. 
        • At the time, the Government had informed Parliament that linking the voter ID with a person’s Aadhaar details would be voluntary.
    • New changes: The Ministry of Law and Justice recently amended Form 6: It introduced Form 6B to the Registration of Electors Rules, 1960. These forms make it compulsory for those who have Aadhaar to provide their Aadhaar Numbers in order to vote.
    • Efforts by the Election Commission of India: It started a campaign on August 1 for the “voluntary” linking of Aadhaar details with the voter ID. 

    Need for Linking

    • To streamline electoral rolls and the process of registration of migrated voters without duplication in the rolls
    • To curb the menace of multiple enrolment of the same person in different places.
    • It will help clean up electoral rolls and facilitate elector registration in the location at which they are “ordinarily resident”.
    • Government is attempting to stop bogus voting.
    • The possibility of electors whose names appear in more than one electoral roll or at times more than once in the same electoral roll can be removed.

    Criticisms of the Move

    • The move has drawn flak from various sections of society citing violations to an individual’s right to privacy
    • Many have also flagged concerns that the linkage would help in creating voter profiles which may be used to influence the voting process.
    • Bill violates the Supreme Court judgement on Justice K S Puttaswamy case.
    • The linkage would open the ecosystem to a possibility of a data breach by any agency or non-state actors.
    • It will infringe on the fundamental rights of citizens.
    • It is beyond the legislative competence of the Aadhaar Act to be linked with the electoral laws.
    • Aadhaar is meant for the residents of India and all residents are not Indians. By linking the Aadhaar with the electoral process, we are potentially giving voting rights to non-citizens.

    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)

    • 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). 
    • The Aadhaar Act 2016 has been amended by the Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Act, 2019 (14 of 2019) w.e.f. 25.07.2019.
    • 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.

    Justice K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India and others

    • In the landmark 2017 Right to Privacy judgement, the Supreme Court had held that the decision by a pregnant person on whether to continue a pregnancy or not is part of such a person’s right to privacy as well and, therefore, the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution.

    Source: TH