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No links will be created for third parties to access Aadhaar-Voter ID data: Law Minister Kiren Rijiju

Linking the two documents is seen as controversial as many fear that it could violate the sanctity of the electoral process.

Third parties and government authorites will not have access to the link between Aadhaar and Voter ID, said Union Minister of Law and Justice Kiren Rijiju in response to a question by a few Lok Sabha MPs on February 4.

When asked about the rationale given by the government for using Aadhaar to authenticate citizenship, Rijiju said, “Aadhaar is not the proof of citizenship.”

Amid huge controversy, the Parliament had recently passed a bill to link the Aadhaar database with voter rolls to weed out duplicate entries. Many parliamentarians opposed the bill, saying that it violates the Right to Privacy.

What does the bill say?

The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 looks to amend Section 23 of Representation of the People (RP) Act, 1950 and 1951.

The central government has proposed that the electoral registration officer can require any person to “furnish the Aadhaar number” as per the provisions of the Aadhaar Act 2016 for ‘establishing the identity of the person’.

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These are the other amendments under Section 23 —

  • Aadhaar may also be required from those already in electoral rolls: The bill said that the electoral registration officer can also ask those whose name is already in the electoral rolls to provide their Aadhaar number “for authentication of entries in electoral roll’, and also to identify if their names are in electoral rolls of more than one constituency; or to identify if his or her name is repeated more than once in the same constituency.
  • Aadhaar details have to be furnished before a certain date: The bill said that those whose names are in the electoral rolls will have to notify their Aadhaar number “on or before a date to be notified by the Central government in the Official Gazette.”
  • Names will not be deleted if Aadhaar details are not furnished: The bill said that neither any application for inclusion of name in the electoral roll will be denied, nor any name be deleted “for inability of any individual to furnish or intimate Aadhaar number due to such sufficient cause as may be prescribed.”

Other amendments to RP Act 1950 and 1951 include —

  • Certain statutes have been made gender-neutral: An amendment to section 20 of the RP Act, 1950 and section 60 of the RP Act, 1951 has been proposed for the substitution of the word “wife” with the word “spouse”, making the statutes gender neutral
  • Requisition of premises for voting purposes: An amendment to section 160 of the RP Act, 1951 for enabling the requisition of premises needed for the purpose of being used as polling stations, for counting, etc., has been proposed.

Why the linking of Voter IDs to Aadhaar is being opposed

On the day that the bill was introduced in Lok Sabha, parliamentarians Asaduddin Owaisi and D Ravikumar issued notices seeking to block the bill’s introduction. Owaisi opposed it by claiming that it violates the Right to Privacy as stipulated in the landmark Puttaswamy judgement. He also pointed that a similar exercise taken up in a state earlier, had resulted in the mass deletion of voters from the electoral list.

This is what Owaisi had to say —

  • Amendment violates the independence of constitutional process: Owaisi said that voter enrollment and the exercise of issuing voter IDs are done by the 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.

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

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