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Linking voter card to Aadhaar card

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  • GS 2 || Polity || Constitutional Bodies || Election Commission

Introduction:

  • The Lok Sabha has passed the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which aims to connect electoral register data and voter ID cards to the Aadhaar ecosystem.
  • The measure aims to eliminate electoral roll duplication and give voters with different eligibility dates. This bill, however, has numerous flaws.
  • On the same day that the bill was introduced, it was passed by the Lok Sabha. It not only undermines the fundamental basis of parliamentary democracy, but it also denies elected representatives the ability to express their concerns about a particular subject.
  • For the true preservation of parliamentary democracy, better parliamentary inspection and protection of elected representatives’ rights are required. Even positive features of difficult legislation might be undone by a refusal to allow serious debate and encourage broader feedback.

Key provisions in the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021:

  • Linking Aadhaar Card to Voter ID: The 1950 Act states that anyone may apply to the electoral registration officer to have their name added to a constituency’s electoral record. If the official is satisfied that the application is eligible for registration after verification, he or she will direct that the applicant’s name be included into the electoral roll.
  • The electoral registration official may ask for a person’s Aadhaar number to verify their identification, according to the bill. If their name is already on the electoral roll, the Aadhaar number may be necessary for the roll’s entries to be authenticated.
  • Other documents are permitted to be submitted: For the incapacity of an individual to provide an Aadhaar number, no application for inclusion of a name in the electoral roll will be denied, and no entries in the electoral roll shall be erased. These individuals will be permitted to provide alternate options.
  • The government will determine what constitutes a sufficient reason for not linking: The government will prescribe the reasons for not linking the Aadhaar based on what it considers to be “adequate cause.”

Reason for linkage of Voter ID to aadhaar card:

  • Authentication: Ensure that the electoral roll entries are legitimate.
  • Avoid duplication: People have relocated numerous times. So, people with the same names or who have enlisted in new places without cancelling or removing the old enrolment. The electoral roll data system would automatically identify the registration of the same person in more than one constituency, or more than once in the same constituency, if it is linked to Aadhaar.
  • Facilitate elector registration: Make it easier for voters to register in the place where they live most of the time.
  • Eliminate proxies: Eliminate the use of multiple voter IDs by proxies casting votes.
  • Validating uniqueness: Unlike EPIC, Aadhaar collects biometric information that can be used to verify uniqueness.

Concerns associated with linking Aadhaar with electoral rolls:

  • Issues with the Aadhaar database: In some cases, fingerprints and even the iris have failed to match with the Aadhaar database.
    • Data quality concerns and data breaches have been discovered in Aadhaar data.
    • There is no way to verify the accuracy of the demographic data in the Aadhaar database. Both the Calcutta High Court and the Allahabad High Court, for example, have refused to accept Aadhaar data as valid.
    • There is no publicly published audit report on the efficiency of Aadhaar data. As a result, attaching it to electoral rolls may compromise the integrity of the voter ID database’s records.
  • Infringes on fundamental right to privacy: The measure goes against the Supreme Court’s concept of privacy in the Puttaswamy case.
  • A reversal of the burden of proof: Previously, the government took aggressive steps to ensure voter registration (for example, by house-to-house verification) in order to obtain the universal adult franchise. Individuals who are unable or unwilling to link their Aadhaar to justify their retention on the rolls now bear the brunt of the load.
  • Inability to prevent non-citizens from voting: Aadhaar is not proof of citizenship, as stated in the Aadhaar Act. Citizens, on the other hand, are the only ones who can vote. As a result, requiring Aadhaar for voter identification will not prevent non-citizens from casting ballots.
  • Issues with demographic data: Any attempt to link Aadhaar to voter IDs will result in demographic data being collected. According to critics, the government can utilise voter information to “disenfranchise some people and profile citizens.” Furthermore, it has the potential to build the groundwork for targeted political propaganda and commercial exploitation of private sensitive data, both of which are prohibited under the model code of behaviour.
    • In Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, for example, the chief election officer linked Aadhaar data to voter identity cards in 2018. People discovered that at least 5.5 million votes had been disenfranchised, according to activists. Later, the government reversed its decision.
  • Linking will not provide any results until it is made mandatory: The aforementioned government perks will only be available if Aadhaar is required.
  • Voters may lose their right to vote: The government has not defined “sufficient grounds” for Aadhaar not to be linked. If a person’s failure to submit the information is deemed “unsatisfactory,” the franchise may be revoked.
  • Conflict of Interest: The ECI, which is an independent constitutional agency, is responsible for maintaining voter rolls. Aadhaar is a government-issued identification number, and UIDAI is a government-run agency. There could be a conflict of interest because the ECI has no control over Aadhaar enrollment or deduplication.
  • Other concerns: The plan fails to explain the scope of data sharing between the ECI and UIDAI databases, as well as the mechanisms through which consent will be obtained and whether consent may be revoked.

Way Forward:

  • Reforms to Legislative Procedures: Before enacting any new legislation, the government must seek public input and allow for more thorough parliamentary review.
    • In a Parliamentary democracy like India, it is critical that not only ordinary individuals but even elected representatives are not denied of their rights and possibilities.
    • To discover and eliminate the problems that a proposed bill may raise, a productive debate raising the concerns as well as the relevance of the proposed measure is required..
  • Alternatives to De-Duplication: There are difficulties with voters being registered in several constituencies or non-citizens being enrolled, but these can be resolved by other identification processes.
    • In fact, because Aadhaar is a resident identification rather than a citizen identifier, it may be unnecessary to verify voter identity.
  • The Need for Comprehensive Legislation: A free and fair election requires an error-free electoral roll. The government should introduce a thorough bill so that serious debate in Parliament can take place.
    • The bill should also establish the scope of data sharing between the two databases, the mechanisms for obtaining consent, and whether or not consent to link the databases can be rescinded..
  • Protecting Citizens’ Privacy: Before pursuing Aadhaar-voter ID integration, the government must first pass the Personal Data Protection (PDP) Act.
    • The PDP system must also apply to government agencies, requiring them to seek an individual’s explicit consent before sharing their information across several government institutions.

Mains oriented question:

Even the progressive features of problematic legislation can be undone by a refusal to allow serious debate and encourage wider feedback.” In the context of the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021, comment on this statement.