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Linking Voter ID to Aadhaar is a violation of Right to Privacy: AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi

The government’s plan to amend the election laws has led to a firestorm of opposition from lawmakers and other stakeholders.

Ahead of the introduction of the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill that seeks to link Voter IDs with Aadhaar, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) president and Lok Sabha MP Asaduddin Owaisi has opposed it by claiming that it violates the Right to Privacy as set in the landmark Puttaswamy judgement.

In a letter to the Secretary General of the Lok Sabha, Owaisi said that the bill is outside the “legislative competence of the house” as it violates fundamental rights of citizens. He specified that the linking of Aadhaar and Voter IDs will lead ‘severe harms to the security of privacy and individuals’.

Amid such concerns of profiling and privacy, Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju introduced the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill in Lok Sabha on December 20. Given the majority that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance II enjoys in the lower house of the Parliament, this bill may soon be passed and enacted as law.

Aadhaar-Voter ID linkage will lead to large-scale exclusions

Owaisi said that linkage between Aadhaar and Voter IDs was tried out in other states, and that it led to large-scale exclusions. He did not expand on the matter.

Owaisi was possibly referring to a pilot exercise which was first done in Nizamabad and Hyderabad districts of Telangana in 2014. Although the Supreme Court had halted this exercise in August 2015 (by limiting the mandatory usage of Aadhhaar for only welfare schemes), by then around 30 lakh voters were deleted in Telangana, a report said.

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These are the other issues that Owaisi had with the amendment —

  • Amendment violates independence of constitutional process: Owaisi said that voter enrollment and the exercise of issuing voter IDs are done by Election Commission of India. “Subjecting voter enrollment to Aadhaar violates the independence and sanctity of the constitutional process,” he said.
  • Aadhaar is error prone: “Studies show that Aadhaar is riddled with more errors than EPIC database. It is unheard of that an error prone and insecure database is used to authenticate a relatively secure and frequently updated database,” Owaisi added.
  • No more secret ballot: “It (Linkage) will end up violating the principles of secret ballot, universal adult franchise and free and fair elections,” he said.

Amendment will lead to increased surveillance, targeted advertisements

Another Member of Parliament, D Ravikumar, issued a notice opposing the amendment to the election laws by arguing that the linkage will lead to increased surveillance, disenfranchisement based on identity, and commercial exploitation of private sensitive data.

It violates the judgement of the Supreme Court of India in the Puttaswamy case, which limited the use of Aadhaar authentication solely to welfare programmes (sic). Any attempts to link Aadhaar to the voter IDs , would lead to demographic information which has been linked to Aadhaar, being linked to the voter database — D Ravikumar, Lok Sabha MP

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Correction, 8.07 pm: In the first paragraph, the phrase “both houses of the Parliament”  has been changed to “the lower house”.

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Among other subjects, I cover the increasing usage of emerging technologies, especially for surveillance in India

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