Veteran civil servants call for judicial intervention to stop linking of voter card with Aadhar card


New Delhi: Over hundred eminent intellectuals, veteran diplomats and former civil servants of the country on Wednesday called for intervention of the judiciary to annul the Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021 which links Electoral Photo Identity Card with Aadhar card, arguing the move will open the floodgates for illegal profiling and targeting of voters.

In an open letter, they condemned the passage of the crucial legilsation in the winter session of Parliament without any effective parliamentary oversight or discussion. They are of the view that linking voter and Aadhar cards 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.

‘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 open letter issued by the Group of Concerned Citizens which include these intellectuas, civil servants and diplomats said.

The linkage of the two cards will also undermined the independence of the Election Commission of India(ECI). The pointed out that Article 324 of the Constitution of India mandates the ECI 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.

The signitoroes to the letter have given a few more strong reasons for their opposition to the controversial legislation.

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.

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.

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,” they said.

They contend that 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.

They pointed out that 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.

”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,” they said.

The104 signatories to the letter are:

  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

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