New Delhi: Over 500 prominent citizens and organisations have written to the Election Commission of India (ECI), expressing their disapproval over the proposal demanding the linkage of voter IDs with Aadhar card, saying it would be exclusionary and a violation of privacy as well as Supreme Court’s ruling.
On September 26, 2018, the apex court, delivering its final judgment in cases challenging the constitutionality of Aadhaar, had permitted the use of Aadhaar authentication solely for welfare programmes (and to link with PAN numbers for income tax,
The letter, endorsed by 24 campaigns and organisations, includes electoral reform group, Association for Democratic Reforms; civil rights groups such as Peoples’ Union of Civil Liberties, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, National Alliance of People’s Movements, Jharkhand; and digital rights groups such as Rethink Aadhaar, Article 21 Trust, Internet Freedom Foundation, the Bachao Project, and the Free Software Movement of India.
The signatories also include prominent individuals, including former civil servants, journalists, lawyers, social activists, researchers, and students.
As per the ECI proposal these “reforms” are sought in order to clean up the voters’ list, prevent voter fraud, as the Aadhar card involves biometric verification which cannot be duplicated. It has also said that any linkage of Voter ID with Aadhar shall be voluntary, and documents such as passports, driving license etc would remain valid for verification.
However, the statement has termed this proposal a “dangerous idea” that “ will almost certainly lead to mass disenfranchisement, could increase voter fraud, given the mass discrepancies in the Aadhaar database, and could violate people’s right to privacy by enabling voter profiling through the linkage of data sets. This proposal would violate the judgment of the Supreme Court of India in Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (retd.) & Anr. v. Union Of India (Aadhaar judgment) which limited the use of Aadhaar authentication solely to welfare programmes and to link with PAN numbers for the purposes of income tax.”
Citing the example of the Telangana Assembly polls of 2018, where Aadhar ID was used for voter verification, causing 55 lakh people arbitrarily disenfranchised, the statement said that the proposed linkage would cause more people being left out of voter rolls.
Previous instances where the Aadhar was used to “clean-up” data bases, as was done with Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and the Public Distribution System ( PDS ) system, had ended up causing arbitrary deletion of people from databases.
The statement highlighted that the Aadhar had a faulty database, which Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) authorities had themselves admitted, and owing to this there could be more instances of voter fraud, contrary the ECI’s claims.
Raising data security concerns, the letter cited the Cambridge Analytica case and invasion of individual privcay
“Any attempts to link Aadhaar to the voter IDs, would lead to demographic information which has been linked to Aadhaar, being linked to the voter database. This creates the possibilities for disenfranchisement based on identity, of increased surveillance, and targeted advertisements and commercial exploitation of private sensitive data. In 2019, the Cambridge Analytica scandal demonstrated the disastrous impact that deep and invasive voter profiling had on individuals and on democracies,” the letter said.