The Election Commission of India has told the Supreme Court that it is not mandatory for citizens to provide Aadhaar numbers for electoral roll authentication, Live Law reported on Thursday.

The poll panel said that it will make “appropriate clarificatory changes” to electoral roll registration forms to reflect this.

A bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, and Justices JB Pardiwala Justice Manoj Misra was hearing a petition by Telangana Congress leader G Niranjan, who questioned why the forms required Aadhaar details in order to authenticate information of new voters in the electoral rolls.

The lawyers for the Election Commission, Sukumar Pattjoshi and Amit Sharma, told the court that providing Aadhaar numbers was not mandatory under Rule 26-B of the Registration of Electors (Amendment) Rules 2022.

The Supreme Court disposed of the petition based on the election commission’s undertaking.

Rules allowing Aadhaar linking with electoral rolls

The central government had in June last year notified the Registration of Electors (Amendment) Rules 2022 to allow linking Aadhaar numbers with electoral roll data.

This was part of the four notifications announced under the Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021 that was passed by Parliament in December 2021 amid a walkout by the Opposition.

The rules allow 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 is 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.

The language used in the rules had also come under scrutiny as it stated that the only “sufficient cause” under which a person could avoid submitting their Aadhaar details to the electoral office is if they did not have one. In such cases, 11 other identity proofs, such as driving licence and passport, can be used to authenticate voter IDs.