The Madras High Court has asked the Election Commission to urgently look into allegations against the Bharatiya Janata Party that it was illegally using Aadhaar data of voters in Puducherry for making political gains in the Assembly elections in the Union Territory, Live Law reported on Friday.
It also asked the poll panel not to shirk responsibility while looking into such serious allegations. “It will not do for the Election Commission to pass the buck in this case and say that the cyber crimes division is conducting an investigation,” the Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthil Kumar Ramamoorthy observed.
The bench added, “When the Election Commission is up and about in all other matters and asserts its primacy and authority, it has to look into this allegation immediately and with the degree of seriousness that it deserves,” according to Bar and Bench. The court directed the poll panel to file a report in the matter by March 26.
The High Court made the observations on Wednesday while hearing a plea by President of the Puducherry State Committee of the Democratic Youth Federation of India, A Anand. The plea alleged that the Puducherry BJP unit has gained unauthorised access to personal data of the residents of Union Territory from the Aadhar-Unique Identification Authority of India database, which the party was now using for its own political mileage.
Anand alleged the saffron party has created booth-level WhatsApp groups that were sending messages to target voters in various parts of Puducherry. He said that after receiving one such message himself, he contacted the WhatsApp group administrator and questioned how they obtained his mobile number.
The administrator, however, refused to divulge any details and asked Anand to approach the BJP Puducherry Party office, his plea stated. When Anand asked him why his name was added, the administrator allegedly told him that there are WhatsApp groups for around 952 booths in Puducherry, and that all voters were being added to them, the plea added.
The plea also said that the messages were received only on those mobile numbers which are Aadhaar-linked. “For instance, if a person uses two mobile numbers, which is very common nowadays, SMS is only sent to the mobile number linked with Aadhar and not in the other mobile number” Anand submitted, according to Live Law.
The petitioner also pointed out that the electoral data shared with Chief Electoral Officers also does not contain a voter’s mobile number, but only the names and photos of voters. So, it was unclear where the saffron party got access to these mobile numbers, he said.
Coupled with this, he alleged that the BJP was making spam calls. Anand stated that he too received a call, wherein the caller clearly knew his name, the booth and the constituency in which he has to vote.
The petitioner accused the BJP government at the Centre of miserably failing to perform its duties and of intruding on the privacy of voters for personal and political interests, in utter violation of the law.
The plea also contended that the BJP’s alleged actions were not only a violation of the model of conduct in place ahead of the Assembly elections in Puducherry, but also a serious threat to national security.
“Being the ruling party at the centre, BJP has misused its seat of power and indulged in identity theft under section 66 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, clearly in breach of the fiduciary duty it owes towards its subjects ie., the general public,” the plea stated. “The said offence is committed with an intention to threaten the security of the country, leading to the offence of cyber terrorism under Section 66F of the Information Technology Act, 2000.”
Based on these submissions, the petitioner demanded the court to constitute a special investigation multi-disciplinary team to look into the allegations against the BJP. It also sought that it should not be mandatory to show Aadhaar documents while availing government or private services.
Additionally, the plea asked the court to refrain Puducherry BJP and other political parties from sending SMS with WhatsApp invites to constituency/booth wise groups on the messaging platform.