The Cabinet on Wednesday approved certain amendments to the electoral law, including allowing linking of voter cards with Aadhaar and permitting those turning 18 to register themselves as voters four times a year, instead of one, The Times of India reported.

The proposal to allow the linking of voter identity cards and Aadhaar is meant to eliminate duplicate entries from electoral rolls, the newspaper reported. However, activists have warned about the dangers of using Aadhaar linking as a way of weeding out names from voter lists considering the huge mismatch in the two databases.

Unidentified officials told the newspaper that the amendments seek to allow electoral registration officers to ask for the Aadhaar numbers of voters for authentication. This will be voluntary.

The Election Commission of India said that it has run pilot projects on linking voter cards with Aadhaar, which have been successful, NDTV reported.

The poll panel had launched a project across the country in March 2015 to use the voter ID-Aadhaar link to remove duplicate names from voter lists. A month before that, it had run a pilot project in Telangana. The project had to be stopped when five months later, the Supreme Court laid down what Aadhaar could be used for. Voter ID was not among the purposes.

But in those five months, often dubious means were used by state election commissions to expedite the process of linking voter IDs with Aadhaar, an investigation by in 2019 had found. The election commissions were found to have used data collected for other schemes without consent.

A document viewed by referred to complaints received by the Election Commission of India about the possibility that the names of voters could be deleted from electoral rolls for not providing Aadhaar.

This happened on the day of the Assembly polls in Telangana in December 2018. Lakhs of voters found out that their names were missing from electoral rolls. The Election Commission admitted later that the names of voters had not been verified during the linking of voter IDs and Aadhaar.

In July, experts had also warned of “danger of leaks and possibility of disenfranchisement of voters” in linking voter cards with Aadhaar.

In June, the Election Commission of India had written to the Centre requesting to expedite action on linking of voter information with the Aadhaar system.

‘Dangerous situation’

In 2019, Justice (retired) BN Srikrishna, who headed the committee that drafted the Personal Data Protection Bill, had described the linking of voters IDs with Aadhaar as the “most dangerous situation”, Bloomberg reported.

The Data Protection Bill seeks to govern the collection, recording, indexing, and even disclosing of personal data.

The former Supreme Court judge had said that the Election Commission has a record of names, addresses and gender of voters. “Now if you add it to Aadhaar and Aadhaar adds it to my bank account then all the money in my Mauritius will also be known,” he stated.

Srikrishna had added that with no law related to data protection, it would be wrong to introduce policies involving the data of citizens.

Other voting reforms

Meanwhile, the Cabinet has also cleared the proposal to make voting by special procedure a gender neutral process, The Indian Express reported. It will allow husbands of service officers (Army, paramilitary and government officials serving outside India) to also enroll as service voters.

Presently, the facility is only available to the wives of service officers.

The Election Commission will be even empowered to take over any premises for conducting polls, the newspaper reported.

The Centre will introduce all these electoral reforms in Parliament.