Many Aadhaar activists and civil society organizations have raised the alarm about this move: they say it could lead to voters being excluded from the rolls and compromise the privacy of their data.
This has been a contentious issue since The Election Commission had started linking the two in 2015. The EC’s move was with the aim to delete names in the voter list that had been duplicated.
The initiative was later stayed by the Supreme Court, as part of a case discussing the constitutionality of Aadhaar and privacy issues.
With the latest Cabinet approval for the initiative, concerns are justified. In 2015, when the Election Commission linked Aadhaar to the voter ID list, more than 5 million names were deleted from the voter database in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Electoral Reforms Or Exclusionary Events?
The government is considering certain major voting reforms based on the Election Commission’s recommendations. These include reforms to make it easier for first-time voters to enrol by allowing enrolments four times a year (from one time currently).
The proposal to link Aadhar to the voter ID database is purportedly aimed at weeding out duplications and citizens can do this voluntarily.
Not Compulsory, Not Problematic, Right?
Even though it is a voluntary process, privacy concerns are leading to the possibility of voter manipulation, since personal data linked to Aadhaar would now be linked to the Election Commission’s voter database asw well.
In August 2015, the Supreme Court, while hearing a petition on the constitutionality of Aadhaar, passed an interim order prohibiting the use of Aadhar for any purpose other than the Public Distribution Scheme, cooking oil and LPG distribution scheme.
Election officials claimed that the decrease could have been due to several possible factors, such as migration of voters or the intended de-duplication.
However, investigative reports suggested that these deletions took place largely because of the linking of Aadhaar and the voter ID database. For instance,The Quintlooked at how the claims of migration and de-duplication did not add up.
In many cases, deletions took placewithout due diligence, according to an RTI report, there was no proper door-to-door verification.
The government’s push has also sparked concern aboutprivacy, given that India does not have a functional data protection law.
The Aadhar Act
After the judgment came out, the government modified the Aadhaar Act in 2019 to allow the voluntary use of Aadhaar as ID proof for basic uses such as mobile phone connections and opening bank accounts.
This has been challenged before the Supreme Court and is pending, although in practice, service providers often insist on using Aadhaar for customer verification for everyday things.
The Supreme Court also held that the mandatory linking of Aadhaar to the Permanent Account Number used for income tax is legal. However, it barred private companies from using the Aadhaar authentication system.
It did not explicitly clarify whether Aadhaar could be linked to voter data. This has now come to pass with the bill in Parliament.
The 2019 amendment to the Aadhaar Act said that citizens could choose whether they wanted to give their Aadhaar data to private entities.
How much freedom the citizen has now is up for debate.
Stay updated with all the insights.
Navigate news, 1 email day.
Subscribe to Qrius