Lok Sabha passes Bill to Link Electoral Rolls with Aadhaar

Prelims level : Election & Electoral Reforms Mains level : GS-II Structure, organization and functioning of the Executive and the Judiciary Ministries and Departments of the Government; pressure groups and formal/informal associations and their role in the Polity.
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Why in News?

  • The Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 that seeks to link electoral rolls to Aadhaar number has been passed by the Lok Sabha recently.

Need for linking of Aadhaar and Voter ID

  • This has been a demand of the Election Commission ever since 2015.
  • The EC had launched the National Electoral Law Purification and Authentication Programme to link the Aadhaar number with the voter ID number.
  • It said the linking will weed out multiple enrolments in the name of one person.
  • At that time, the programme was stalled as the Supreme Court ordered that the use of Aadhaar will remain optional to avail of welfare schemes.
  • Following this, the EC modified its proposal and said the linking will be optional.

Other Provisions in the Bill:

  • It will provide registration of new voters on four qualifying dates in place of the existing January 1 of every year.
  • At present, anyone turning 18 on or before January 1 will be eligible to be registered as a voter. Anyone born after January 1 will have to get enlisted only after a year.
  • According to the bill, along with January 1, there will be three other qualifying dates – April 1, July 1 and October 1 – in every calendar year.
  • The amendments also allow the elections to become gender neutral for service voters.
  • The amendment will help replace the word ‘wife’ with the word ‘spouse’ making the statutes “gender neutral”.
  • At present, an Armyman’s wife is entitled to be enrolled as a service voter, but a woman officer’s husband is not. With ‘wife’ being replaced by the term ‘spouse’, this will change.

What are the Issues Raised Over Voter ID-Aadhaar Seeding?

  • The proposal fails to specify the extent of data sharing between the ECI and UIDAI databases, the methods through which consent will be obtained, and whether consent to link the databases can be revoked.
  • In the absence of a robust Personal Data protection law — a Bill in that regard is yet to clear Parliament — any move to allow sharing of data can prove to be problematic. There would be an intrusion to the privacy of the individual.
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