The Lok Sabha on Monday passed the bill amending the electoral laws 2021 to link the voter identification list, or rather voter list data, with the Aadhaar card without submitting the bill to public consultation as is. required on laws with far-reaching consequences. This was done on the basis of a recommendation from the Election Commission.
The link, although not yet mandatory, was made under the guise of removing “a large number of duplicate voters”. The bill was passed without a personal data protection law in place and the link between Aadhaar and voter registration data will result in large-scale deprivation and the targeted removal of certain sections of the population from the list, experts said.
Even as Union Legal Affairs Minister Kiren Rijiju moved the motion to pass the bill, Congressman Manish Tewari said such a law was detrimental to democracy. “The Aadhaar law does not allow linking the two databases. Voting is a legal right and Aadhaar can only be used for social assistance schemes, ”Tewari explained.
Congress party leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury opposed the introduction of the bill, saying it would result in massive deprivation of the right to vote. He referred to Judge KS Puttaswamy’s judgment against Union of India and asked that it be referred to the Standing Committee.
Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor argued that Aadhaar was only proof of residence and only citizens could vote, but now “residents will also be allowed to vote”.
AIMIM MP Asaduddin Owaidi stressed that the bill violates the right to privacy and the independent sanctity of the electoral process. He wanted a split after the bill was introduced, but the presidency did not accept his request.
“Aadhaar is not proof of citizenship. The central government interferes with the electoral commission, ”said Professor Saugata Roy of the Trinamool Congress.
Incidentally, the Election Commission attempted to tie the cards in 2015, but it was suspended by the Supreme Court when considering the validity of Aadhaar in Judge KS Puttaswamy’s judgment as this could lead to exclusion.
As a result of Aadhaar’s association with the voter identification list, nearly 55 lakhs were removed from the Telangana and Andhra Pradesh voter database.
Digital rights activists have decried the bill, pointing out that there has not been enough discussion about it. “A bill as important as this needs to have broader discussions, not just in Parliament, but with citizens, whose rights are at stake,” said Prasanth Sugathan of the Software Freedom Law Center.
“All the experiences of Aadhaar and voter ID database linking in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana resulted in excessive deprivation of the voters’ right to vote. This bill will actively create a class of voters who will not be able to vote across India, ”said Srinivas Kodali, a digital rights activist.
All voter identification data from Aadhaar will be interconnected to create voter profiles. In Andhra Pradesh, there have been allegations that some of this data was passed on to the Telugu Desam party in 2019. An investigation has been launched by India’s Single Identification Authority, the Election Commission of India and Cyberabad Police on Privacy Breach and Data Abuse of Andhra Radish Voters 3.7 Crore Based on Complaint Filed by Congressman YSR V Vijaysai Reddy .
Reddy alleged that government data from a Smart Pulse survey that linked to the State Resident Data Hub (SRDH) and contained demographics from Aadhaar and voter lists prepared by the ECI had been misused.
“Voting is the basis of democracy. If you’re going to take away people’s electoral rights, just because of a problem with Aadhaar or biometrics or duplication, that’s our democracy at stake. People should have had time to respond to that, ”Sugathan pointed out. .
It won’t end there, Kodali said, because for the BJP it is “one nation, one election” and Aadhaar will be the basis for online voting. “Now the liaison with Aadhaar has become voluntary; it will soon be mandatory. And if your biometrics don’t match, you won’t be able to vote, ”Kodali explained.
Biometric voting took place in Estonia and Kenya. In 2017, Kenya introduced biometric-based voting, which resulted in the election being overturned by the Supreme Court of Kenya.
Currently, many socially backward and vulnerable families continue to be denied their ration due to the failure of Aadhaar’s connectivity. In several of these cases, the biometric data did not match and there were more than 350 resulting starvation deaths.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court observed that the cancellation of three crore ration cards across the country so as not to be linked to Aadhaar was a serious issue. In February 2017, the Prime Minister hailed the cancellation of 3.95 crore of “fake” ration cards with the help of Aadhaar. However, this assertion was challenged by the responses from RTI.