An undertaking has been submitted by the Election Commission of India (ECI) to the Supreme Court stated that it will make requisite changes de-linking the Aadhaar Card from the Electoral Voting list. The ECI today also added that the Commission will be issuing “appropriate clarificatory changes” to the forms that require Aadhaar details for electoral roll authentication. As per the undertaking, the changes will be made in Forms 6 and 6B (for Registration in E-Roll) which required details of Aadhaar number for the purpose of electoral roll authentication for new voters.
A Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala, and Justice Manoj Misra was also informed by senior advocate Sukumar Pattjoshi, appearing for the Election Commission, that the submission of the Aadhaar number was not mandatory under Rule 26-B of the Registration of Electors (Amendment) Rules 2022. The senior counsel had submitted that nearly 66,23,00,000 Aadhaar numbers had already been uploaded in the process of finalising electoral rolls. It was added that the submission of the Aadhaar number was not mandatory under Rule 26-B of the Registration of Electors (Amendment) Rules 2022 and hence the Election Commission was looking into issuing appropriate clarificatory changes in the forms introduced for that purpose.
It is essential to note here that the said undertaking has been made by the Election Commission in a petition filed in the Supreme Court that highlighted issues with Form 6 (Application Form for new voters) and Form 6B (Letter of Information of Aadhaar number for the purpose of electoral roll authentication) of the ECI forms for registration in e-roll. The said petition had been filed by G.Niranjan, Senior Vice President, Telangana Pradesh Committee. Based on the undertaking made by the ECI, the Court disposed of the writ petition. Concerns had been raised about whether individuals who have not linked their Aadhaar with their Voter ID will face exclusion from electoral roll registration. It had been argued that that the right to vote is one of the “most sacred rights” and cannot be denied if a person does not have an Aadhaar card.
Prior to this, in December 2022, former Union Minister for Law and Justice, Kiren Rijiju, had stated in the Rajya Sabha during a Parliamentary session that linking Aadhaar with Voter ID is voluntary and consent of the elector is required to be obtained to link the same.
Election authority mandates linking of Aadhaar with Voter IDs:
The Registration of Electors (Amendment) Rules 2022 was notified by the Central Government in June 2022 to provide for linking Aadhaar number with election ID cards. Form 6B is the application form by which a voter can inform the Aadhaar number for the purpose of electoral roll authentication.
In August 2022, the Election Commission of India had launched the program to collect Aadhaar number of electors ‘on a voluntary basis’. In accordance to the Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021, the Electoral Registration Officers were permitted to ask the elector to provide their Aadhaar numbers for the purpose of establishing identity. However, the same was supposed to be only voluntary.
Notably, a petition remains pending in the Supreme Court which challenges the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 and the Registration of Electors (Amendment) Rules 2022.