India’s Election Commission is pitching new legislation that would link a citizen’s voter ID card with their Aadhaar number. The legislation would amend the 1951 Representation of the People Act, and allow the Election Commission to collect the Aadhaar numbers of existing voters and new applicants seeking to have their names added to the register.
According to the Elections Commission, the proposed action is necessary to clean up the electoral roll and purge duplicate entries. Collecting people’s Aadhaar numbers would allow the organization to cross reference those numbers with electoral data, and bind someone’s Aadhaar number to their electoral photo ID card (EPIC).
The amendment itself is currently making its way through the bureaucratic process. The law ministry is working on a note based on a proposal from the Election Commission. The note will then be sent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Cabinet committee, which will in turn clear the way for a Bill at Parliament.
It’s not yet clear when the ministry will present its formal note, but there is a chance that it will do so during the Cabinet budget session that began on January 31. The session is expected to conclude on April 3.
This is not the first time that the Election Commission has tried to use Aadhaar to consolidate India’s voter rolls. The organization started collecting Aadhaar numbers as part of a National Electoral Roll Purification and Authentication Programme in 2015, but was forced to stop after India’s Supreme Court ruled that the Commission did not have the authority to request an Aadhaar card, and could not use Aadhaar to withhold the traditional benefits of citizenship.
The Commission’s latest legal maneuvering is an attempt to change the law to get around that particular injunction. As it stands, the Supreme Court has limited the scope of Aadhaar to the distribution of social subsidies and other resources, and even then the Court has ruled that Aadhaar is not mandatory. Citizens are allowed to opt out of the Aadhaar program.
Source: The Times of India
February 3, 2020 – by Eric Weiss