The Election Commission of India wants to link Aadhaar to the Electors’ Photo Identity Card (EPIC) or “Voter I-card”, a move which will usher in an era of increased transparency in the electoral system. However, the poll body is waiting for the Supreme Court order on its application seeking permission to do so. The EC had submitted its application to the SC in July last year for allowing it to obtain Aadhaar details from voters and linking these with the EPIC. The Commission will start the process again, if it gets court permission, said an EC source.

The source said the Commission is hopeful of a positive outcome as the Centre has started filing applications after the Aadhaar Act was published in the official Gazette in March 2016. Moreover, the Apex Court permitted the Income Tax Department to link PAN with Aadhaar in June last year.

In March 2015, the EC had launched the “National Electoral Roll Purification and Authentication Programme” (NERPAP) across the country with the objective of bringing in an error-free and authenticated electoral roll. The idea was to link the EPIC data with Aadhaar for authentication. Electors were provided with the facility to feed their respective Aadhaar numbers through SMS, email, mobile application and also using National Voters Service Portal (NVSP) of the Commission.

Under the programme, the facility for the voluntary disclosure of multiple entries by voters was also provided. Electors with multiple registrations in electoral rolls were advised to fill a particular form for the deletion of their names from the places except where they ordinarily resided.

However, there were several objections to the EC move. There were complaints apprehending that many names might be removed from the voters’ list for not furnishing Aadhaar numbers. There were also apprehensions that the Aadhaar database may be misused. There were fears that the existing EPIC cards would become redundant after getting linked with Aadhaar number.

After these objections were raised, the EC clarified that Aadhaar was optional and not mandatory. It clarified that names would not be deleted if voters did not submit their Aadhaar numbers. It also clarified that non-furnishing of the Aadhaar number would not be ground for rejection of application for new enrolments. The Commission also said that the confidentiality and security of the database would be maintained.

In August 2015, the Supreme Court ordered that the Aadhaar card would not be used for any purpose other than the public distribution system, for the distribution of food grains, kerosene oil and LPG cylinders. Following this, the EC suspended NERPAP, as it was one of the respondents in the matter. The process of collection/feeding/seeding of Aadhaar numbers was stopped. However, by that time, the Commission had already linked 31 crore voters with their Aadhaar numbers.

The source said, “Aadhaar is now well accepted as a valid identity proof by the government for availing different services like opening of bank accounts, bank transactions, passport application, telephone/mobile connections and availing of concessions. It was first used to pass on the subsidy of direct benefit transfer (DBT) in the purchase of LPG cylinder and payment of MGNREGA. Subsequently, over 19 ministries are implementing over 90 Centrally-sponsored schemes through DBT, which is linked with Aadhaar.”

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