The petition, filed against Telangana High Court’s refusal to look into the matter, raises issues of interference with the right to vote, invasion of voter privacy, and voter profiling.
THE Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notice to the Union Government, the Chief Election Commissioner, the Telangana government and the Andhra Pradesh government calling for their response to a petition alleging that the Election Commission of India (‘ECI’), in a suo motu exercise, deleted 46 lakh entries from the electoral rolls in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Terming the matter an important one, the division bench of the Chief Justice of India Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice P.S. Narasimha issued notice to this effect.
The bench was hearing a petition filed by Srinivas Kodali, a Hyderabad resident and technology researcher, against the Telangana High Court’s decision refusing to look into the grievance raised by the petitioner. Advocate Gautam Bhatia appeared for the petitioner.
The petition alleges that in an effort to purify electoral rolls, the ECI in 2015, (i) suo motu deleted 46 lakh entries from the electoral rolls in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana; (ii) linked Electors Photo Identity Card (‘EPIC’) with Unique Identification or Aadhaar; (iii) seeded EPIC data with the State Resident Data Hub (‘SRDH’); and (iv) allowed the state governments to access and copy EPIC data.
“While the EPIC-Aadhaar linking was carried out under the National Electoral Rolls Purification and Authentication Programme (8NERPAP9), rest of them were carried out without specific policy, guidelines, or authorization in any form”, the petition asserts.
Kodali also alleges that the ECI, in order to purify the electoral rolls, is using an automated process, from data received from Aadhaar and state governments, and without proper notice or consent from voters, in a blatant infringement of the right to vote.
Likewise, the ECI’s actions to permit electronic linkages between EPIC data, Aadhaar, and SRDH is an unconstitutional invasion on voter privacy and the right against voter profiling, the petition alleges.
The petition argues that the high court refused to consider that the ECI deployed undisclosed software to identify duplicate, dead, and shifted voters.
As per the petition, the high court failed to see that:
No valid law, rule or regulation was enacted to use a software or algorithm as an aid or substitute for verifying electoral rolls;
The software source-code or algorithmic parameters for identifying duplicate, dead or shifted voters remains undisclosed;
Names were removed from electoral rolls without any explanation or electronic audit trail shared with affected voters; and
A similar de-duplication exercise conducted previously in 2015 had a failure rate of 92 per cent 3 wherein the software flagged 37,54,648 voters as duplicates, while only 2,47,789 voters (eight per cent) were found to be duplicate voter entries after field verification.
Besides, it argues that the high court failed to consider that the ECI facilitated voter profiling by creating electronic linkages between voter records and sensitive personal data held in state-owned databases.