Thinking before linking: On linking electoral rolls with Aadhaar

Despite progressive aspects, linking electoral rolls with Aadhaar raises apprehensions

There are indeed complaints that some electors may be registered in more than one constituency and that non-citizens have been enrolled, but these can be addressed by other identification processes. In fact, the Aadhaar database may be irrelevant to verify voter identity because it is an identifier of residents and not citizens. And the complaints of wrongful enrolment have come up even against the unique identity number allotted to more than 90% of the population. Mr. Rijiju is confident that the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill satisfies the tests laid down by the Supreme Court — a permissible law, a legitimate state interest and proportionality. However, this has to be rigorously examined. Even though the Aadhaar requirement is said to be voluntary, in practice it can be made mandatory. The Bill says the election registration officer may require the submission of the Aadhaar number both for new enrolments and those already enrolled. The choice not to submit is linked to a “sufficient cause”, which will be separately prescribed. Whether the few permissible reasons not to intimate one’s Aadhaar number include an objection on principle is unknown. If an individual’s refusal to submit the detail is deemed unacceptable, it may result in loss of franchise. Therefore, the measure may fail the test of proportionality. If the Government really has no ulterior motive in the form of triggering mass deletions from the electoral rolls, it must invite public opinion and allow deeper parliamentary scrutiny before implementing the new provisions that now have the approval of both Houses of Parliament.

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