Linking Voter Id & Aadhaar – A Dangerous Move : Constitutional Conduct Group

Statement by Constitutional Conduct Group

We are a group of former civil servants of the All India and Central Services who have worked with the Central and State Governments in the course of our careers. As a group, we have no affiliation with any political party but believe in impartiality, neutrality and commitment to the Constitution of India.

We are issuing this open statement to voice our grave apprehensions regarding the provision in the recently enacted Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021 to link the Electoral Photo Identity Card (EPIC-Voter ID) issued by the Election Commission of India (ECI) with the Aadhaar card issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), an agency of the Government of India.

The ECI is mandated by Article 324 of the Constitution of India with the superintendence, direction and control of elections to parliament, the state legislatures and the offices of the President and Vice President of India. Accurate electoral rolls and the Voter IDs issued by the ECI ensure free and fair elections that reflect the will of the people of India. The requirement of Aadhaar verification, even if voluntary, from a prospective or registered voter implies the superimposition of a government-issued identity card for identity and address verification that could seriously undermine the independence and integrity of the ECI and cast doubts on the fairness of the entire electoral process.

There are six reasons (listed below) why the move to require Aadhaar verification for Voter IDs is defective, bad in law, in bad faith and liable to potential misuse by the state:

  1. The Voter ID is issued on the basis of citizenship while the Aadhaar card is issued on the basis of identity, without proof of citizenship being required. Section 9 of the Aadhaar Act, 2016 is clear that Aadhaar may not be used as proof of address, age, gender, citizenship or relationship. Even if it is argued that Voter IDs may be wrongly issued to non-citizens, the verification by Aadhaar in no way solves this vexing problem; in fact, it is quite likely that even non-citizens may be registered as voters if Aadhaar is used as the only proof.
  2. Unlike Aadhaar enrolments, which need only production of existing documents, Voter IDs are based on physical verification and “house visits” by a Block Level Officer. The Voter ID is certified by the Electoral Registration Officer while there is no certification of the Aadhaar by the UIDAI. It cannot be ruled out that, with the linkage of Aadhaar numbers to Voter IDs, and in the absence of physical verification by the election authorities, efforts may be made to manipulate electoral rolls by getting persons registered as voters in constituencies where they do not reside.
  3. The recent legislation which inserted sub-sections (4), (5) and (6) in Section 23 of the Representation of the People Act, 1950 (RPA-1950) and clauses (hhha) and (hhhb) in Section 28(2) of the RPA-1950 makes it evident that the Government of India is dissembling when it states that linking the Aadhaar number to the Voter ID is voluntary. These new insertions, in effect, make it mandatory for a voter to furnish her/his Aadhaar details or risk disenfranchisement. The new sub-section 6 of Section 23 is especially revealing in its intentions. It states “No application for inclusion of name in the electoral roll shall be denied and no entries in the electoral roll shall be deleted for inability of an individual to furnish or intimate Aadhaar number due to such sufficient cause as may be prescribed;” (emphasis added). The possible mischief that this wording can give rise to is made amply clear by the subsequent clauses in the Amendment Act which permit the government to prescribe, under its rule-making powers, the process for intimation of Aadhaar numbers by voters. Rules made by the government require no parliamentary approval. A rule can, therefore, easily be introduced making the furnishing of Aadhaar numbers a prerequisite for voter enrolment. The scope for large-scale deletion of names from the electoral rolls can then become a distinct possibility, given that many existing voters may not (or may choose not to) furnish their Aadhaar details to the Electoral Registration Officer. There is also the likelihood that the UIDAI’s powers to omit or deactivate Aadhaar numbers under Section 23 (g) of the Aadhaar Act could lead to widespread deletions from the electoral rolls.
  4. The experience to date in attempting to clean up data base registries of other government programmes like MGNREGA and PDS, using the Aadhaar data base, has been discouraging: names of thousands of beneficiaries have been arbitrarily deleted from systems without any notice, resulting in mass disentitlement.
  5. Linking Aadhaar numbers to Voter IDs will open the floodgates for illegal profiling and targeting of voters, especially in the run-up to elections, when the Model Code of Conduct is not in place. It is instructive to learn from the recent experience of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, where software residing in the State Resident Data Hub (SRDH) of the state governments and maintained by a private company was used by the governments to provide information on duplicate voters to the Chief Electoral Officers of the states, a clear violation of electoral laws.
  6. There is a distinct possibility that Voter IDs linked to Aadhaar cards and thence to mobile phones could be linked to social media. This social media can be linked to algorithms that are in turn linked to user interests/views. Without a robust Data Protection law and accompanying regulatory mechanisms in place, voter profiling, selective exclusion and targeted campaigns are all possible. The 2016 presidential campaign in the USA brought to light the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Justice B.N. Srikrishna, former Judge of the Supreme Court, who chaired the expert committee that drafted the Data Protection Bill categorically condemned the linkage of Voter IDs with Aadhaar as “the most dangerous situation”. His graphic warning was that “instead of having a Cambridge Analytica you’ll have a Delhi Analytica, a Mumbai Analytica, a Calcutta Analytica…!

It has already been shown at point no. 3 in the preceding paragraph that the wording of the amendments introduced in the RPA-1950 gives ample scope to mandatorily enforce the linkage of Aadhaar with Voter IDs. Even if one were to presume the good intentions of the government in not bringing in delegated legislation to enforce the linkage, we are familiar with the manner in which the public was literally coerced to link their bank accounts with their Aadhaar numbers, despite the apparent “voluntary” nature of executive directions and the specific orders of the Supreme Court. In fact, many government departments and private bodies today routinely ask for Aadhaar numbers for provision of services, in clear violation of Supreme Court orders, which specified the use of Aadhaar-based identification for government welfare schemes funded from the Consolidated Fund of India. Those who wish to avail of these services are compelled to disclose their Aadhaar numbers. Matters have come to a pass where Aadhaar numbers are required even for cremation or burial purposes.

It is unfortunate enough that the Government of India has, without any effective parliamentary oversight or discussion, brought in this crucial legislation that could have a major impact on electoral outcomes. It is even more unfortunate that the ECI has seen fit to promote a move which has the capacity to restrict its independence and integrity in the conduct of elections. What is now called for is strong judicial intervention to nip this highly dangerous move in the bud.

SATYAMEVA JAYATE

(104 signatories, as below)

 

1. Anita Agnihotri IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Department of Social Justice Empowerment, GoI
2. Salahuddin Ahmad IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan
3.  V.S. Ailawadi IAS (Retd.) Former Vice Chairman, Delhi Development Authority
4. S.P. Ambrose IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Secretary, Ministry of Shipping & Transport, GoI
5. Anand Arni RAS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
6. G. Balachandhran IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
7. Vappala Balachandran IPS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, GoI
8. Gopalan Balagopal IAS (Retd.) Former Special Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
9. Chandrashekhar Balakrishnan IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Coal, GoI
10. T.K. Banerji IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Union Public Service Commission
11. Sharad Behar IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
12. Aurobindo Behera IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Odisha
13. Madhu Bhaduri IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Portugal
14. Meeran C Borwankar IPS (Retd.) Former DGP, Bureau of Police Research and Development, GoI
15. Ravi Budhiraja IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust, GoI
16. Sundar Burra IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
17. Maneshwar Singh Chahal IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Secretary, Home, Govt. of Punjab
18. R. Chandramohan IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Secretary, Transport and Urban Development, Govt. of NCT of Delhi
19. Gurjit Singh Cheema IAS (Retd.) Former Financial Commissioner (Revenue), Govt. of Punjab
20. F.T.R. Colaso IPS (Retd.) Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Karnataka & former Director General of Police, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir
21. Anna Dani IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Maharashtra
22. Vibha Puri Das IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, GoI
23. P.R. Dasgupta IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Food Corporation of India, GoI
24. Pradeep K. Deb IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Deptt. Of Sports, GoI
25. Nitin Desai   Former Chief Economic Adviser, Ministry of Finance, GoI
26. M.G. Devasahayam IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Govt. of Haryana
27. Sushil Dubey IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Sweden
28. A.S. Dulat IPS (Retd.) Former OSD on Kashmir, Prime Minister’s Office, GoI
29. K.P. Fabian IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Italy
30. Arif Ghauri IRS (Retd.) Former Governance Adviser, DFID, Govt. of the United Kingdom (on deputation)
31. Gourisankar Ghosh IAS (Retd.) Former Mission Director, National Drinking Water Mission, GoI
32. Suresh K. Goel IFS (Retd.) Former Director General, Indian Council of Cultural Relations, GoI
33. S.K. Guha IAS (Retd.) Former Joint Secretary, Department of Women & Child Development, GoI
34. H.S. Gujral IFoS (Retd.) Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Govt. of Punjab
35. Meena Gupta IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, GoI
36. Deepa Hari IRS (Resigned)  
37. Siraj Hussain IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Department of Agriculture, GoI
38. Kamal Jaswal IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Department of Information Technology, GoI
39. Najeeb Jung IAS (Retd.) Former Lieutenant Governor, Delhi
40. Ajai Kumar IFoS (Retd.) Former Director, Ministry of Agriculture, GoI
41. Sudhir Kumar IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Central Administrative Tribunal
42. Aloke B. Lal IPS (Retd.) Former Director General (Prosecution), Govt. of Uttarakhand
43. Subodh Lal IPoS (Resigned) Former Deputy Director General, Ministry of Communications, GoI
44. B.B. Mahajan IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Deptt. of Food, GoI
45. P.M.S. Malik IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Myanmar & Special Secretary, MEA, GoI
46. Harsh Mander IAS (Retd.) Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
47. Lalit Mathur IAS (Retd.) Former Director General, National Institute of Rural Development, GoI
48. L.L. Mehrotra IFS (Retd.) Former Special Envoy to the Prime Minister and former Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, GoI
49. Aditi Mehta IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Rajasthan
50. Sonalini Mirchandani IFS (Resigned) GoI
51. Malay Mishra IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Hungary
52. Avinash Mohananey IPS (Retd.) Former Director General of Police, Govt. of Sikkim
53. Satya Narayan Mohanty IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission
54. Deb Mukharji IFS (Retd.) Former High Commissioner to Bangladesh and former Ambassador to Nepal
55. Gautam Mukhopadhaya IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Myanmar
56. Pranab S. Mukhopadhya IAS (Retd.) Former Director, Institute of Port Management, GoI
57. Surendra Nath IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Finance Commission, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
58. P.A. Nazareth IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Egypt and Mexico
59. P. Joy Oommen IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of Chhattisgarh
60. Amitabha Pande IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Inter-State Council, GoI
61. Mira Pande IAS (Retd.) Former State Election Commissioner, West Bengal
62. Maxwell Pereira IPS (Retd.) Former Joint Commissioner of Police, Delhi
63. Alok Perti IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Coal, GoI
64. G.K. Pillai IAS (Retd.) Former Home Secretary, GoI
65. R. Poornalingam IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Textiles, GoI
66. Rajesh Prasad IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to the Netherlands
67. Sharda Prasad IAS (Retd.) Former Director General (Employment and Training), Ministry of Labour and Employment, GoI
68. Rajdeep Puri IRS (Resigned) Former Joint Commissioner of Income Tax, GoI
69. T.R. Raghunandan IAS (Retd.) Former Joint Secretary, Ministry of Panchayati Raj, GoI
70. N.K. Raghupathy IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Staff Selection Commission, GoI
71. V.P. Raja IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Maharashtra Electricity Regulatory Commission
72. K. Sujatha Rao IAS (Retd.) Former Health Secretary, GoI
73. M.Y. Rao IAS (Retd.)  
74. Vijaya Latha Reddy IFS (Retd.) Former Deputy National Security Adviser, GoI
75. Aruna Roy IAS (Resigned)  
76. Manabendra N. Roy IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
77. A.K. Samanta IPS (Retd.) Former Director General of Police (Intelligence), Govt. of West Bengal
78. Deepak Sanan IAS (Retd.) Former Principal Adviser (AR) to Chief Minister, Govt. of Himachal Pradesh
79. G. Sankaran IC&CES (Retd.) Former President, Customs, Excise and Gold (Control) Appellate Tribunal
80. Shyam Saran IFS (Retd.) Former Foreign Secretary and Former Chairman, National Security Advisory Board
81. S. Satyabhama IAS (Retd.) Former Chairperson, National Seeds Corporation, GoI
82. N.C. Saxena IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Planning Commission, GoI
83. A. Selvaraj IRS (Retd.) Former Chief Commissioner, Income Tax, Chennai, GoI
84. Ardhendu Sen IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary, Govt. of West Bengal
85. Abhijit Sengupta IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GoI
86. Aftab Seth IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Japan
87. Ashok Kumar Sharma IFoS (Retd.) Former MD, State Forest Development Corporation, Govt. of Gujarat
88. Ashok Kumar Sharma IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Finland and Estonia
89. Navrekha Sharma IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Indonesia
90. Pravesh Sharma IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
91. Raju Sharma IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Board of Revenue, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh
92. Rashmi Shukla Sharma IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh
93. Mukteshwar Singh IAS (Retd.) Former Member, Madhya Pradesh Public Service Commission
94. Sujatha Singh IFS (Retd.) Former Foreign Secretary, GoI
95. Tara Ajai Singh IAS (Retd.) Former Additional Chief Secretary, Govt. of Karnataka
96. Tirlochan Singh IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, National Commission for Minorities, GoI
97. Narendra Sisodia IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary, Ministry of Finance, GoI
98. Parveen Talha IRS (Retd.) Former Member, Union Public Service Commission
99. Anup Thakur IAS (Retd.) Former Member, National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission
100. P.S.S. Thomas IAS (Retd.) Former Secretary General, National Human Rights Commission
101. Hindal Tyabji IAS (Retd.) Former Chief Secretary rank, Govt. of Jammu & Kashmir
102. Ashok Vajpeyi IAS (Retd.) Former Chairman, Lalit Kala Akademi
103. Ramani Venkatesan IAS (Retd.) Former Director General, YASHADA, Govt. of Maharashtra
104. Rudi Warjri IFS (Retd.) Former Ambassador to Colombia, Ecuador and Costa Rica

 

One thought on “Linking Voter Id & Aadhaar – A Dangerous Move : Constitutional Conduct Group”

  1. I am also very disturbed by the swift and regular manner in which this Govt is introducing new provisions or amending existing constitutional and legal sections and systems without proper consideration and debate.
    Yes, this is highly dangerous, but are a 104 signatures going to have any effect in stopping these incursions/ potential violations into Indian Citizens’ Fundamental and Constitutional Rights?
    I think it’s high time that We, The People must join together and rise up to stop this disastrous slide…
    Now, in Karnataka, we’re starting a Movement to Protect our Constitutional Rights in light of the new Anti-Conversion Bill sought to be brougt in without discussion – perhaps as an ordinance – which could precitate large scale uncontrollable social unrest/ communal violence which is akready started here.
    In Bengaluru, and in the Districts too, Church attacks have become frequent!
    We plan to expand our Movement to all of Karnataka and, finally, it must become all India.
    I believe that our objectives must expand to include all the dangerous meddling with Constitution and Legal Systems that is going on as per an agenda after the CAA/NRC issue was laid to rest temporarily. Surreptitiously, it is going on, and we need to come out as one strong force which includes all Progressive Citizens, NGOs, CSOs, Orgs, Groups and Individuals – all of We, The People of India – to effect a revolution, so to say!
    I am based in Bengaluru and an a social and Political Activist called Pushpa S.
    Plz do contact me/us and lets all join forces! We can’t keep working in silos… And, if we don’t stop the agenda soonest, we don’t know what calamities can drown us all…:-(

    Like

We look forward to your comments. Comments are subject to moderation as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s