Linking of Aadhaar card with your voter id Safe or not??

Linking of Aadhaar card with your voter id is Safe or not?

Author-:Vishal (Ranchi)

✓ The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on December 20, 2021. The Bill amends the Representation of the People Act, 1950 and the Representation of the People Act, 1951 to implement certain electoral reforms.

• The 1950 Act provides for the allocation of seats and delimitation of constituencies for elections, qualifications of voters, and preparation of electoral rolls.

  • The 1951 Act provides for the conduct of elections, and offences and disputes related to elections.

Well, this question is raised by many aadhaar activists and civil society organisations about this move: “they say it could lead to voters being excluded from the rolls and compromise the privacy of their data.

  • The push to link aadhaar with voter IDs is not new. Neither is the criticism. # Linking of Aadhaar card

The election commission had started linking the two in 2015. It had already completed the process for around 30 cr. IDs when the initiative was stayed by the supreme court as part of a case about the constitutionality of Aadhar.

With the latest cabinet approval for the initiative, there is a legitimate cause of concern.

√ In 2015 when the election commission linked to the voter id list, about 55 lakh names were deleted from the voter database of two states, Andhara Pradesh & Telangana.

Sources said the Bill to amend The Representation of the people act, 1951 purposes to empower the electoral registration officer to seek aadhar number of existing as well as new voters, albeit only on a voluntary basis.

  • The Aadhar number will only be used for the purpose of voter authentication.

→ Seeking to bring in key electoral reforms such as linkage of voter id with aadhaar so as to weed out bogus and duplicate entries in the electoral roll…

Why is this a problem ?

• There are several concerns about why this proposal: these include privacy concerns and the possibility of voter manipulation since large amounts of personal data linked to Aadhaar would now be linked to the Election Commission’s voter database.

There are fake and duplicate aadhaar cards too. So, linking aadhaar cards with voter IDs may complicate the issue.

→ If legitimate voters do not have an aadhaar or if they could not link it due to any reason, they will be removed from the list. For example, some homeless people do not have aadhaar cards yet. In the 2018 Telangana Assembly elections, linking aadhaar cards with Voter ID led to the elimination of 20 lakh voters.

Even though the Aadhaar linking is voluntary, the bill mentioned that the electoral registration officer may require the submission of the Aadhaar number both for new enrolments and for those already enrolled for the purposes of authentication of entries. So, people cannot even reject linking citing privacy issues.

Linking of Aadhaar card with your voter id is Safe or not ??

⇒ This can be a threat to privacy because this linking can lead to the profiling of voters. Several states collected caste, religion and other sensitive information as part of aadhaar data collection. So, this can be misused by some politicians to selectively eliminate some voters based on their caste or any other identity.

• The government’s push has also sparked concern about privacy, given that India does not have a functional data protection law. This was illustrated with the leak of the Aadhaar data of 7.8 crore residents from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in 2019. This Aadhaar data was also linked to the voter database.

  • The data was found in the possession of a company that worked for the Telugu Desam Party. There were allegations that it was being used for voter profiling as well as targeted campaigning.

What does the law say?

In 2018, a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court held that the Aadhaar Act was constitutional. It upheld the validity of Section 7 which said that Aadhaar could be made mandatory to access any subsidy, benefit or service that were paid for by the Consolidated Fund of India. It also held that the mandatory linking of Aadhaar to the Permanent Account Number (PAN) used for income tax is legal. However, it barred private companies from using the Aadhaar authentication system.

→ The Supreme Court did not explicitly clarify whether Aadhaar could be linked to voter data.

⇒ After the judgment came out, the government modified the Aadhaar Act in 2019 to allow the voluntary use of Aadhaar as identity proof for opening bank accounts and obtaining mobile connections. This has been challenged before the Supreme Court and is pending.

  • In the 2017 right to privacy judgment, the Supreme Court had laid down a three-pronged test to consider if the fundamental right to privacy is being restricted. Is the encroachment to privacy done on the basis of law?

Second, is there a legitimate state aim for this encroachment? The law must be reasonable and must guarantee against arbitrary state action. Third, is the encroachment to privacy proportionate to the purpose of the law under which encroachment is taking place? The linking of both Aadhaar and voter databases would have to satisfy these three tests.

Conclusion:

Linking aadhaar cards with voter IDs can help in removing fake and duplicate voter cards. But more research and analysis should be done by the parliamentary committee to check whether there are other reliable alternatives to this to prevent invasion of privacy.

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