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HomeNationLinking Of Aadhar With Voters Cards: Why EC Wants More Electoral Reforms?

Linking Of Aadhar With Voters Cards: Why EC Wants More Electoral Reforms?

NEW DELHI: In December 2021, the Lok Sabha passed the ‘Election Laws (Amendment) Bill 2021,’ aiming to connect electoral roll data with the Aadhaar ecosystem and introduce significant poll reforms. Despite a brief debate and the opposition’s call to refer the bill to a standing committee, it was cleared by the Lower House.

Government’s Defense: Long-Awaited Reforms

Defending the bill, the government highlighted that it encompasses various electoral reforms that have been long-discussed. The Union Cabinet had previously cleared the bill on electoral reforms, permitting the Election Commission to voluntarily seed Aadhaar numbers with electoral rolls.

Key Reforms And Opposition Criticism

The bill introduced several crucial reforms, including making electoral law gender-neutral for service voters and allowing new voters to enrol on four different dates annually. Despite the Opposition’s criticism, the government emphasized that linking Aadhaar with electoral rolls would address the persistent issue of multiple enrollments, contributing to the enhancement and cleansing of the voters’ list.

Crucial Reforms Proposed

Voluntary Aadhar Linkage: The primary proposal among the four reforms allowed the Election Commission to link Aadhaar numbers with electoral rolls voluntarily.

Quarterly Voter Registration: The second significant proposal involved conducting the voter registration process four times a year, offering more opportunities for individuals turning 18 after January 1 to participate in elections held in the same year.

Multiple Cut-off Dates: Recognizing the limitation of the current January 1 cut-off date, the Election Commission sought multiple cut-off dates for voter enrollment – January 1, April 1, July 1, and October 1.

Gender Neutrality For Service Voters: The reforms also called for gender neutrality in service voters, addressing the disparity where an army man’s wife is entitled to enrol as a service voter, but not a woman army officer’s husband.

Empowering ECI: The final proposal empowered the Election Commission to take over any premise for the conduct of elections, addressing objections raised against the poll body’s use of schools and similar premises.

The Rationale Behind Aadhar Seeding

The Union Law Ministry conveyed that the Election Commission aimed to utilize the Aadhaar database to ensure the preparation of an error-free electoral roll and prevent the duplication of entries. The move was considered essential for the deduplication of electoral data, requiring amendments to the Representation of the People Act, 1951, and the Aadhaar Act, 2016.

Challenges And Objections

The Supreme Court’s intervention in August 2015, citing privacy concerns, halted the National Electoral Roll Purification and Authentication Programme (NERPAP) using Aadhaar numbers. Despite a temporary collection of Aadhaar numbers during that period, the legal constraints prompted the Election Commission to approach the Law Ministry in 2019 with a fresh proposal.

The Standing Committee, in its 101st report, acknowledged the potential intrusion into privacy but emphasized the necessity of an error-free electoral roll for free and fair elections. Concerns over the misuse of personal data and disenfranchisement were raised, aligning with the Supreme Court’s cautious approach towards Aadhaar usage within government agencies.

Recent Developments And Law Ministry’s Response

The Election Commission’s recent proposal to amend the Representation of the People Act, 1950, and voter enrolment forms has been reportedly rejected by the Union Law Ministry. The proposed changes, seeking to eliminate the requirement for voters to provide reasons for not seeding Aadhaar with the voter ID card, were deemed unnecessary in the absence of specific directions from the Supreme Court.

EC Seeks Amendments Amid Ongoing Debate

The exchange between the Election Commission and the Law Ministry continues, with the EC proposing amendments to Sections 23(6) and 28(2)(hhhb) of the RP Act 1950, seeking the deletion of the “sufficient cause” requirement. Additionally, changes are sought in Form 6 for new voter enrolment to ensure prospective voters aren’t compelled to declare their reason for not providing UID details.

As the debate persists, the Election Commission is hoping to strike a balance between electoral integrity and privacy concerns, navigating the evolving landscape of Aadhaar integration in the electoral process.

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