Following the Supreme Court’s latest direction that Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory for availing any benefit due to a citizen, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has suspended the activity of linking the Voter ID with Aadhaar number. It has issued strict instructions to the Chief Electoral Officers (CEOs) of states to this effect.
The Supreme Court has once again reiterated that Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory. In an order dated 11th August 2015, the Supreme Court directed the Government to give wide publicity in the electronic and print media including radio and television networks that it is not mandatory for a citizen to obtain an Aadhaar card.
The Supreme Court Directions
The Supreme Court was dealing with a bunch of petitions filed against the government’s push to make Aadhaar mandatory and its use for various schemes. While the bench referred the issue of ‘Right to Privacy’ being a fundamental right or not to a larger bench, it passed orders making it clear that Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory. The Court said that Aadhaar is not mandatory for citizens and the government should give wide publicity to this extent. It also said that the production of Aadhaar will not be a condition for obtaining any benefits from the Government. Aadhaar will not be used for any purpose other than PDS, LPG etc.
ECI’s NERPAP (National Electoral Rolls Purification & Authentication Program)
In February 2015, the Election Commission of India (ECI) launched the NERPAP (National Electoral Rolls Purification & Authentication Program). This was done against the backdrop of duplicate names, multiple entries, repeating images and repeating Voter ID numbers etc. Linking and Authentication of Voter ID (EPIC) data of voters with Aadhaar data of UIDAI was one of the major objectives of this program. Even then, the ECI made it clear that furnishing of Aadhaar is not mandatory and non furnishing will not result in deletion of names from the electoral rolls.
Despite this clarification, Chief Electoral Officers (CEOs) of various states gave wide publicity to this linking exercise and created an impression that linking is mandatory and not linking would result in deletion of names.
Now following the Supreme Court’s order, the ECI issued directions to all CEOs directing them to suspend the seeding (linking) of Aadhaar with Voter ID. The directions said that linking activity undertaken as part of the NERPAP stands suspended with immediate effect and no more collection of Aadhaar numbers from electors will be done by any election authority.
The ECI directed all CEOs to immediately stop all publicity given to the seeding exercise and remove all material on the websites to be removed. ECI also directed CEOs to give adequate publicity including issuing a press note about this order of the ECI.