From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : NA
Mains level : Aadhaar- Voter ID Linkage
Central idea: An RTI query has revealed that around 60% of Indian voters have linked their Aadhaar cards with their voter ID cards.
Benefits of Aadhaar linking
- Voter uniqueness: The move to link Aadhaar and voter ID cards was introduced to prevent electoral fraud and ensure unique identity of each voter.
- Curb bogus votes: It is expected to help prevent multiple voting, impersonation, and bogus voting, which have been a concern in the past.
- Facilitate migrant voting: There have been migrant workers who may have been registered more than once on the electoral rolls in different constituencies or for persons registered multiple times within the same constituency.
Is the linking of Aadhaar with one’s Voter ID mandatory?
- In December 2021, Parliament passed the Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021 .
- It states that the electoral registration officer may require voters to furnish their Aadhaar numbers to verify Authencity of voters list.
- This was to amend the Representation of the People Act, 1950 and Section 23(4) was inserted in the RP Act.
Why was such linking proposed?
The preference to use Aadhaar for verification and authentication, both by the state and private sector, stems from few reasons:
- Increase in UID-holders: First, at the end of 2021, 99.7% of the adult Indian population had an Aadhaar card.
- Most versatile document: This coverage exceeds that of any other officially valid document such as driver’s licence, ration cards, PAN cards etc. that are mostly applied for specific purposes.
- Reliable source of authentication: Since Aadhaar allows for biometric authentication, Aadhaar based authentication and verification is considered more reliable, quicker and cost efficient when compared to other IDs.
Issues with mandatory linking: Puttaswamy judgment highlights
- Puttaswamy judgment: The above reasons do not suffice the mandating of Aadhaar except in limited circumstances as per the Puttaswamy judgment.
- The indispensability of the purpose: It needs to be considered whether such mandatory linkage of Aadhaar with Voter ID would pass the test of being “necessary and proportionate” to the purpose of de-duplication which is sought to be achieved.
- Constitutional ambiguity: In Puttaswamy, one of the questions that the Supreme Court explored was whether the mandatory linking of Aadhaar with bank accounts was constitutional or not.
- Against informational autonomy: It is the right to privacy which would allow a person to decide which official document they want to use for verification and authentication.
Other judicial observations: Lal Babu Hussein (1995) Case
- The Supreme Court had held that the Right to vote cannot be disallowed by insisting only on four proofs of identity.
- The voters are entitled to rely on any other proof of identity and obtain the right to vote.
What are the operational difficulties?
- Aadhaar is not a citizenship proof: The preference to Aadhaar for the purposes of determining voters is puzzling as Aadhaar is only a proof of residence and not a proof of citizenship.
- Excluding non-citizens is not easy: Verifying voter identity against this will only help in tackling duplication but will not remove voters who are not citizens of India from the electoral rolls.
- Estimate of error rates in biometric based authentication: This certainly differs. As per the UIDAI in 2018, Aadhaar based biometric authentication had a 12% error rate.
- Disenfranchisement of existing voters: Errors have led to the disenfranchisement of around 30 lakh voters in AP and Telangana before the Supreme Court stalled the process of linkage.
Key concern: Right to Privacy
- Some civil societies has highlighted that linking of the two databases of electoral rolls and Aadhaar could lead to the linkage of Aadhaar’s “demographic” information with voter ID information.
- This could lead to violation of the right to privacy and surveillance measures by the state.
- This would leave the EC with the option of verifying its information only through door-to-door checks.
- There is a lack of enforceable data protection principles that regulate how authentication data will be used.
- Address privacy and security concerns: There should be strict measures in place to ensure the safety of personal information and prevent data breaches.
- Provide alternative authentication: The government should provide alternative methods of identity verification. This will help ensure that no citizen is disenfranchised due to the lack of an Aadhaar card.
- Regular monitoring and evaluation: The government should regularly monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the linking of Aadhaar and voter ID cards in preventing electoral fraud.
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