The Union government on Friday issued a notification to allow linking electoral roll data with Aadhaar.
The announcement is part of the four notifications announced under the Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021 that was passed by Parliament in December amid a walkout by the Opposition.
The move allows electoral registration officers to seek Aadhaar numbers of citizens who want to register as voters to establish their identity.
While the government has maintained that sharing Aadhaar details will be voluntary, several activists have expressed concerns that linking them with voter cards could lead to voters being excluded from the rolls and compromise the privacy of their data.
In March 2015, the Election Commission had launched a nationwide project to link Aadhaar to voter ID cards. A month before that, it had run a pilot project in Telangana. The project was stopped after a Supreme Court judgement in October 2015 that laid down limitations on the purposes for which Aadhaar could be used. Voter identification was not among the purposes.
However, during the project, state election commissions were found to have used data collected for other schemes without consent, a Scroll.in investigation in February 2019 showed.
On Friday, Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju said that the notification has been issued in consultation with the Election Commission.
He also said that now a citizen after turning 18 can apply for voter registration on four occasions – January 1, April 1, July 1 and October 1. Previously, January 1 was the only cut-off date to register as a voter.
“The four qualifying dates will considerably enhance the voter base,” Rijiju said.
The minister said that the Election Commission can now requisition any premises for storing poll-related material and accommodating security forces and polling personnel.
The government also said it was changing the word “wife” with “spouse” to make the statutes gender-neutral. This will extend the voting facilities meant for service voters to their husbands too. Earlier, only wives of services voters could avail themselves of the facilities.
Soldiers deployed outside their states or members of Indian missions abroad are among those who are considered service voters. For the service voters, postal ballot are made available or they can also nominate a person to cast votes for them.