April 1, 2023

Linking of electoral data with Aadhaar: All you need to know – Times of India

NEW DELHI: The Lok Sabha on Monday passed the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill 2021 that seeks to link electoral roll data with Aadhaar cards.
The bill was piloted by Law Minister Kiren Rijiju and was passed despite protests by the opposition members who demanded that it be referred to a parliamentary panel. Rijiju, however, clarified that the various proposals which are part of the bill, have already been suggested and recommended by the Standing Committee of Law and Personnel and the Amendment is aimed at stopping bogus and fraudulent voting.
What is Election Laws (Amendment) Bill 2021?
The bill seeks to link electoral rolls to the Aadhaar number, allowing electoral registration officers to ask for the 12-digit number of applicants who want to register as voters to establish their identity.
“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 name of the same person in the electoral roll of more than one constituency or more than once in the same constituency.”
The linking of Aadhaar with voter ID will be voluntary
The amendment bill also clarifies that “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”. Such people will be allowed to furnish other documents as may be prescribed.
Qualifying dates
Also, the amendment to Section 14 of the RP Act, 1950 provides for allowing four “qualifying” dates for eligible people to register as voters.
As of now, January 1 of every year was the sole qualifying date, the amendment proves that “the 1st day of January, 1st day of April, 1st day of July, and 1st day of October in a calendar year” will be the qualifying dates in relation to the preparation or revision of electoral rolls.
Gender neutral
Two more amendments were introduced to make the elections “gender-neutral” for voters from defence services. These amendments replaced the word “wife” with “spouse” as until now an army man’s wife is entitled to be enrolled as a service voter, but a woman army officer’s husband is not.
Why has the bill been proposed?
The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 has been proposed to curb the menace of multiple enrolment of the same person in different places. According to Rijiju, the bill would lead to “purifying” the rolls of fraud and duplication.
Government sources said Aadhaar linking with electoral rolls will solve one of the major problems in electoral database management which is multiple enrolment of the same person at different places.
“This may be due to the frequent shifting of residence by electors and getting enrolled in the new place without deleting the previous enrolment. Thus, 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,” an official said.
He said 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 voter registration in the location at which they are ‘ordinarily resident’,” he added.
Is this the first time?
This is not a new proposal. According to Jagdeep Chokar, co-founder of Association of Democratic reforms, the first such attempt was made in March 2015, when the Election Commission of India (ECI) launched the National Electoral Roll Purification and Authentication Programme (NERPAP) “with the prime objective of bringing a totally error-free and authenticated electoral roll”.
“One of the objectives of the NERPAP was to link and authenticate the EPIC (Electoral Photo Identity Card) data with the UIDAI’s Aadhaar data. However, on August 11, 2015, the Supreme Court passed an interim order prohibiting Aadhaar from being used for “any purpose” other than the state-facilitated distribution of food grain and cooking fuel such as kerosene and LPG. The ECI decided to stop the drive by its order of August 13, 2015,” says Chokar on his blog.
What is the biggest concern?
The biggest concern is what if volunary becomes de facto mandatory? “Experience with Aadhaar and Aarogya Setu shows that “voluntary” processes can easily become de facto mandatory. There is a high likelihood of a strong informal push from the state and its agencies for people to link their Aadhaar with their EPIC. This is especially so because for the government to achieve its stated mission of de-duplication of the rolls, it will need 100 % buy in, which is not possible under a voluntary model. More importantly, the government has not provided any empirical evidence to back its claim demonstrating the need for this measure”, says Vrinda Bhandari, an independent lawyer, practising in New Delhi.
What did the opposition say?
The Opposition MPs held that the Bill was suddenly and hastily included in the supplementary list of business on Monday afternoon and was passed by a voice vote. The MPs alleged that they were not given time to move any amendments even as they said the legislation was a violation of the Aadhaar Act.
All the opposition parties unanimously opposed the introduction of the bill and said it must be referred to a parliamentary standing committee.
Congress MP Manish Tewari said the Aadhaar Act does not allow for linking of the card to voters list and is only intended to be used for the disbursal of financial benefits and such matters. He added that it is beyond the legislative competence of the House to take up the bill. The government has held that the Aadhaar Act aims that it can be used for welfare and good governance enabling such an electoral reform.
Leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, said that the legislation would curb people’s personal liberty and infringe on the fundamental rights of citizens.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said Aadhaar was only meant to be a proof of residence, but not a proof of citizenship. He said if Aadhaar were to be asked for voting, “all you are getting is a document that reflects residence, not citizenship. You’re potentially giving the vote to non-citizens”.
“We do not have data protection laws. You cannot bulldoze such a Bill on people,” he said.
TMC alleged that the bill was being brought to tamper with the voter list and violate voter rights. The BSP, RSP and other opposition parties strongly opposed the bill linking Aadhaar with voters’ list too.

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