The concerns around Aadhaar-Voter ID linkage

Source: The post is based on an article “The concerns around Aadhaar-Voter ID linkage” published in “The Hindu” on 29th August 2022.

Syllabus: GS 2 Important Provisions of the Constitution of India

Relevance: Right to Privacy; Aadhaar-Voter ID linkage

News: Recently, the Election Commission (EC) has been organizing a campaign to promote the linkage of Voter ID and Aadhaar. As a result, the block level officers (BLOs) have been asking individuals to link their Aadhaar with their Voter IDs, failing which their Voter IDs could be cancelled.

Is the Aadhaar-Voter ID linkage mandatory?

Section 23(4) of the Representation of the People Act, 1950 which was inserted through the Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021 requires the citizens already enrolled, to furnish their Aadhaar numbers.

Rule 26B, added to the Registration of Electors Rules, 1960 requires “every person whose name is listed in the roll to voluntarily intimate his Aadhaar number to the registration officer”.

However, Form 6B issued under the new Rule 26B does not give the impression of voluntariness in linkage. It mandates that the voter should either submit their Aadhaar number or any other listed document if the voter is “not able to furnish their Aadhaar number because they do not have an Aadhaar number”.

Why do state and private sectors use Aadhaar for verification and authentication?

First, at the end of 2021, 99.7% of the adult Indian population had an Aadhaar card. This coverage exceeds that of any other officially valid document such as a driver’s licence, ration cards, PAN cards etc.

Second, Aadhaar allows for biometric authentication. Therefore, Aadhaar-based authentication and verification is considered more reliable, quicker and cost-efficient when compared to other IDs.

What are the benefits and concerns associated with the Aadhaar-Voter ID linkage?
Read here: ‘Forcible’ Aadhaar-voter ID linking
Why mandatory Aadhaar-Voter ID linkage is an issue?

As per the Puttaswamy judgment, the Court observed that the mandatory linking of Aadhaar with bank accounts fell afoul of the test of proportionality, as it deprived a person of their right to property for non-linkage.

In Lal Babu Hussein (1995), the SC had held that the Right to vote cannot be disallowed by insisting only on four proofs of identity, i.e., voters can rely on any other proof of identity and obtain the right to vote.

What are the operational difficulties in Aadhaar-Voter ID linkage? 

First, 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.

Second, as per the Unique Identification Authority of India in 2018, Aadhaar based biometric authentication had a 12% error rate.

Third, linking of the two databases of electoral rolls and Aadhaar could lead to the linkage of Aadhaar’s “demographic” information with voter ID information. Therefore, it can lead to some sort of state surveillance and violation of the right to privacy. Therefore, any other officially valid document should be used to verify or authenticate the identity of the voter in India.

What should be done?

There should be a data protection law that pacifies concerns about the unauthorised processing of personal data held by the government.

In the meantime, the government should clarify by making a correction in Form 6B that the linking is not mandatory.

Read more: Keep it simple: On Aadhaar-voter ID linking
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