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Govt writes to UIDAI, seeks Aadhaar use for new voters

Aadhaar verification could be used for faster delivery of some other services such as change of address as well, the Law Ministry has suggested.

Written by Ritika Chopra | New Delhi |
Updated: August 8, 2021 6:52:42 am
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The government has approached the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) with a proposal to permit the Election Commission (EC) to use Aadhaar for registration of new voters.

Aadhaar verification could be used for faster delivery of some other services such as change of address as well, the Law Ministry has suggested.

Downloading e-EPICs (electronic Elector’s Photo Identity Card) or Voter Slips could be allowed under Rule 3 of The Aadhaar Authentication for Good Governance (Social Welfare, Innovation and Knowledge) Rules, 2020, the government has said.

The Rules, which were notified by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on August 5 last year, provide for Aadhaar authentication “in the interest of good governance, preventing leakage of public funds, promoting ease of living of residents, and enabling better access to services for them”.

To use Aadhaar for such purposes, the interested entity has to submit a proposal to the union government which forwards it to the UIDAI. The Indian Express has learned that the Law Ministry’s letter to UIDAI was sent at the behest of the EC, and that the proposed Aadhaar verification would be voluntary.

If the UIDAI and the government agree, the seeding of voter cards with Aadhaar for the above-mentioned purposes could begin without need for amendments to The Representation of the People Act, 1950, and The Aadhaar Act, 2016.

In August 2019, the Commission had written to the Law Secretary proposing amendments to the RP Act and the Aadhaar Act to empower it to collect and use Aadhaar data for “cleaning” voters’ lists as a “back-end exercise”.

The EC had argued then that Aadhaar-seeding of voter cards would help weed out duplicate entries and bogus voters, and hence serve the national interest. “This step will also pave the way for exploring use of technology for voting and verification of voter identity in the future,” it had said in its letter.

As per the EC’s proposed amendment to the RP Act, the Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) may, for the purpose of establishing identity, ask a person to furnish her Aadhaar number and even ask those who are already enrolled as voters to furnish their Aadhaar to check for duplicate entries.

However, the proposed amendment had also said that no one would be denied enrolment or would be deleted from the voters’ list for their inability to furnish Aadhaar or for not having Aadhaar.

The EC had initiated the exercise of linking Aadhaar with EPIC in February 2015, when H S Brahma was Chief Election Commissioner. But the exercise was suspended in August of that year, after the Supreme Court restricted the use of Aadhaar to the Public Distribution System (PDS), and the distribution of LPG and kerosene. The EC had already linked 38 crore voter cards to Aadhaar by then.

In its final order passed in September 2018, the apex court held that although privacy is a fundamental right, it can be curtailed if there is either a specific law authorising collection of Aadhaar or if the interest of the state is involved or the test of proportionality is satisfied. Hence, the Commission’s demand in 2019 for legal powers to resume seeding of voter cards with Aadhaar.

While the Law Ministry had responded positively to the request and a proposal for the Cabinet’s approval was learnt to have been prepared, there had been no development since — except now that the Ministry has proposed a beginning for Aadhaar-seeding of voter cards without amending the law.

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