According to RTI, 60% of Indian voters linked Aadhaar to voter ID

According to an RTI request, approximately 60% of Indian voters have linked their Aadhaar cards to their voter ID cards.

The Advantages of Aadhaar Linking

  • Voter individuality: The move to link Aadhaar and voter ID cards was implemented to prevent electoral fraud and ensure each voter’s unique identity.
  • Stop phoney votes: It is expected to aid in the prevention of multiple voting, impersonation, and bogus voting, which have previously been issues.
  • Facilitate migrant voting: There have been reports of migrant workers being registered multiple times on electoral rolls in different constituencies, or of people being registered multiple times within the same constituency.

Is it necessary to link Aadhaar to one’s voter ID?

  • The Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021 was passed by Parliament in December 2021.
  • It states that the electoral registration officer may ask voters for their Aadhaar numbers in order to verify the authenticity of the voter list.
  • The Representation of the People Act, 1950, was amended, and Section 23(4) was added to the RP Act.

Why was such a connection proposed?

  • The preference of the state and private sectors to use Aadhaar for verification and authentication stems from a few factors:
  • Increase in the number of UID holders: To begin, by the end of 2021, 99.7% of adult Indians would have an Aadhaar card.
  • The most adaptable document: This coverage is greater than that of any other officially valid document, such as a driver’s licence, ration cards, PAN cards, and so on, which are mostly used for specific purposes.
  • Because Aadhaar allows for biometric authentication, Aadhaar-based authentication and verification is thought to be more reliable, faster, and cost-effective than other IDs.

Puttaswamy decision highlights issues with mandatory linking

  • Puttaswamy’s decision: Except in limited circumstances, the above reasons do not justify mandating Aadhaar, according to the Puttaswamy decision.
  • The necessity of the purpose: It must be considered whether such mandatory linking of Aadhaar with Voter ID would pass the test of being “necessary and proportionate” to the goal of de-duplication.
  • Constitutional ambiguity: In Puttaswamy, the Supreme Court considered whether the mandatory linking of Aadhaar with bank accounts was constitutional.
  • In opposition to information autonomy: The right to privacy allows a person to choose which official document to use for verification and authentication.

Other legal observations: Case of Lal Babu Hussein (1995)

  • The Supreme Court ruled that the right to vote cannot be denied by requiring only four forms of identification.
  • Voters may use any other form of identification to obtain the right to vote.

What are the operational challenges?

  • Aadhaar is not proof of citizenship: The preference for Aadhaar for voter identification is perplexing, as Aadhaar is only a proof of residence, not citizenship.
  • It is difficult to exclude non-citizens: Verifying voter identity against this will only help to reduce duplication while not removing voters who are not Indian citizens from the electoral rolls.
  • Estimated error rates for biometric authentication: This is certainly distinct. According to the UIDAI, Aadhaar-based biometric authentication had a 12% error rate in 2018.
  • Existing voter disenfranchisement: Errors led to the disenfranchisement of approximately 30 lakh voters in AP and Telangana before the Supreme Court halted the linkage process.

The primary concern is the right to privacy

  • Some civil society organisations have expressed concern that linking the two databases of electoral rolls and Aadhaar could result in the linking of Aadhaar’s “demographic” information with voter ID information.
  • This could result in the state violating the right to privacy and instituting surveillance measures.
  • The EC would then only be able to verify its information through door-to-door checks.
  • There are no enforceable data protection principles that govern how authentication data is used.

Way ahead

  • Address privacy and security concerns: Strict measures should be put in place to protect personal information and prevent data breaches.
  • Provide alternative authentication methods: The government should make alternative methods of identity verification available. This will help to ensure that no citizen is denied the right to vote because they do not have an Aadhaar card.
  • Monitoring and evaluation on a regular basis: The government should monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of linking Aadhaar and voter ID cards in preventing electoral fraud on a regular basis.
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