Appearing for octogenarian retired major general SG Vombatkere, advocate Shyam Divan said the Election Commission of India (ECI) has ordered all Aadhaar card holders to mandatorily link their UID number with their voter card, which was violative of the right to privacy and has the potential to breach the secrecy attached to the voting exercise. Vombatkere had unsuccessfully challenged the validity of Aadhaar Act, 2016.
Before a bench of Justices Sanjay K Kaul and A S Oka, Divan argued that a person, for inclusion of his/her name in the voters list or for authentication of their name in electoral roll, is required to fill a form, which allows alternative documents as proof only if he/she didn’t possess an Aadhaar card. Divan said the government had told the SC in 2019 that Aadhaar is not proof of citizenship.
“Aadhaar may be made mandatory for receiving subsidy benefits under various schemes. But how could it be made mandatory for exercising a person’s right as important as casting vote, which is the most sacrosanct right of a citizen in a democracy,”Divan asked.
The bench said given the judgment of the SC in 2019 limiting the usage of Aadhaar, the issue raised by the petitioner “may require some clarification from the court”. Justice Oka also said the alternative documents specified by the EC may not even be available with most members of tribal communities making it difficult for them to include their names in the voter list or authenticate their names in electoral roll.
Vombatkere in his petition said the new legislation posed a major threat to the independence of the EC insofar as preparation of electoral rolls are made dependent on the processes and systems of Aadhaar/UIDAI, over which EC had no control. “Linking the two databases, Aadhaar and electoral roll, would also pose a privacy threat to eligible voters, leading to voter profiling, amongst other harms,” he said.