The Lok Sabha on Monday passed the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021, to link Aadhaar with voter identity cards despite massive protests by the Opposition parties.
When it becomes an Act, the law will allow electoral registration officers to seek Aadhaar numbers of people who want to register as voters to establish their identity.
The Bill was passed in the Lower House through a voice vote after a brief period of discussions, during which some members of the Opposition demanded that the draft law should be referred to a parliamentary panel, reported PTI.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor noted that Aadhaar is only meant to be a proof of residence, and not of citizenship, according to ANI. “If you’re in a position asking Aadhaar for voters, all you’re getting is a document that reflects residence, not citizenship,” he said. “You’re potentially giving the vote to non-citizens.”
Manish Tewari, Congress’ MP from Anandpur Sahib, also opposed the Bill, contenting that the Aadhaar Act does not allow for the linking of Aadhaar and voter ID cards, The Hindu reported. He said that Aadhaar can be used only for welfare schemes.
Trinamool Congress MP Saugata Roy accused the Modi government of interfering with the Election Commission through the Bill.
All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen MP Asaduddin Owaisi said the Bill would “weaken democracy and the rights of citizens”.
“Around 8% discrepancies have been found in Aadhaar cards and 3 to 4% errors have been found in electoral rolls,” Owaisi told NDTV. “If this Bill is passed then a large number of people in this country will lose their right to vote.”
But, Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju said the move to link Aadhaar with voter ID cards will end bogus voting and make the election process more credible.
He also rejected the Opposition’s demand to refer it to a parliamentary committee, saying that certain proposals, which are part of the Bill, had already been recommended by the Standing Committee of Law and Personnel, reported PTI.
The Lok Sabha was adjourned for the day after the Bill was passed as Opposition MPs continued to protest.
Criticism of proposed law
Many activists and civil society organisations have expressed concerns about the proposed law, saying that it could lead to voters being excluded from the rolls and compromise the privacy of their data.
In 2018, an attempt to link Aadhaar to voter IDs led a large number of voters in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana being deleted from the rolls.
In 2018, the Supreme Court held that Aadhaar can be made mandatory to access any subsidy, benefit or service that is paid for by the Consolidated Fund of India. It also held that the mandatory linking of Aadhaar to the Permanent Account Number used for income tax was legal.
The court, however, did not explicitly clarify whether Aadhaar could be linked to voter data.
As per the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, linking of Aadhaar to voter IDs is voluntary. It states that “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”, The Hindu reported.
Those who cannot furnish Aadhaar numbers will be permitted to submit others documents as proof of identity.