The Election Commission of India has said it does not have details, “in any physical form”, of the number of voter identity cards linked to Aadhaar or the money spent on the linking, Medianama reported on Monday. The poll panel said this in a response to a Right to Information query filed by the news portal.
The commission also said in its response that under the National Electoral Roll Purification and Authentication Programme, launched in 2015, no voter identity cards were deleted for not being linked with Aadhaar.
Amrita Johri, a member of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information, told MediaNama that not having information in “physical form” cannot be an excuse to not provide the information.
In March 2018, Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat had said that 32 crore voter identity cards were already linked with Aadhaar. In April 2017, the Centre, through its Digital India Twitter handle, claimed that 31 crore voters had linked their voter IDs cards to their Aadhaar numbers.
Rawat told Scroll.in that consent had been obtained from voters for the linkage. The process involved voters going online voluntarily and completing the linkage after agreeing to the terms and conditions, he said. “The process naturally involves consent,” he said.
In 2015, the Election Commission had launched the National Electoral Roll Purification and Authentication Programme – NERPAP – across all states and Union territories with the aim to link Aadhaar with the electoral rolls. However, the Supreme Court later that year passed an interim order prohibiting Aadhaar from being used for any purpose other than the state-facilitated distribution of food grain and cooking fuel. While the Centre continued to make the unique identity number mandatory for beneficiaries, the Election Commission halted its drive.
In September 2018, the top court upheld most of the provisions of the Aadhaar Act, adding that mobile phones and bank accounts need not be linked with Aadhaar. But the top court’s order did not specify anything about the voter identity cards being linked to Aadhaar.
Former Chief Election Commissioner HS Brahma told Scroll.in that if the drive had continued, India would have become the first country in the world to get rid of all bogus voters.
Meanwhile, in October, the Madras High Court issued a notice to the Unique Identification Authority of India and the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Centre on a petition seeking to link Aadhaar with electoral rolls and voter identification cards. ML Ravi, the president of an outfit called the Desiya Makkal Sakthi Katchi, filed the public interest litigation saying such a move would reduce electoral malpractices.