In a letter addressed to the Law Secretary, the EC has proposed amendments to the Representation of the People Act, 1950, and the Aadhaar Act, 2016, to empower the Commission to collect and use Aadhaar data for “cleaning” voters’ list as a “back-end exercise”.
Further, it is learnt to have argued that seeding of voter cards with Aadhaar will help weed out duplicate entries and bogus voters, and hence, serve national interest. “This step will also pave way for exploring use of technology for voting and verification of voter identify in the future,” the letter states.
The EC had first initiated the exercise of linking Aadhaar with the Electors Photo Identity Cards (or EPIC) in February 2015, when H S Brahma was the Chief Election Commissioner. It was suspended later that year in August, after the Supreme Court restricted the use of Aadhaar to only the Public Distribution System (PDS), LPG and kerosene distribution. The poll panel had already linked 38 crore voter cards to Aadhaar by then.
In its final order, the apex court had held that although ‘Right to Privacy’ is a fundamental right, it can be curtailed if there is either a specific law authorising collection of Aadhaar or if the state interest is involved or the test of proportionality is satisfied. Hence, the Commission’s demand for legal powers to resume seeding of voter cards with Aadhaar. It has further assured in its letter to the government that the Aadhaar data will not be available in public domain.
According to the amendment to the Representation of the People Act proposed by EC, the Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) for the purpose of establishing identity may ask a person to furnish her Aadhaar number and even ask those already enrolled as voters to furnish the same to check for duplicate entries. However, the same amendment also states that no one will be neither denied enrollment nor deleted from the voters’ list for inability to furnish Aadhaar or for not having an Aadhaar number.
The poll panel has also asked Law Ministry to amend the voter enrollment forms to introduce a column for applicants to provide their Aadhaar number.