The government has moved to amend the Aadhaar Act to legally empower the Election Commission to link the unique identification number with the electoral roll, which would remove bogus and duplicate entries and pave the way for giving “remote” voting rights to migrant voters.
The law ministry is working on a note to be put up before the Union Cabinet for the decision which, apart from sanitising the electoral roll, will save migrants from what amounts to “disenfranchisement” by changing the current practice where they can vote only if they are in the constituency where they are registered as voters.
The ministry conveyed this to the Election Commission at a meeting on Tuesday to discuss electoral reforms.
At the meeting between top EC functionaries and the law secretary, chief election commissioner Sunil Arora stressed on the need for the law ministry to fast-track implementation of reforms proposed by the poll panel as far back as 2004-05 and also hold regular discussions with the EC to review progress. Law secretary Narayan Raju assured the poll panel that the ministry was examining the 40 electoral reforms proposed by the EC and that each was at a different stage of discussion.
On seeding of the electoral photo identity card (EPIC) with the 12-digit Aadhaar number, the law secretary, according to EC sources, said the government was favourably inclined and a Cabinet note would be moved soon to amend the Aadhaar Act.
EC officials said Aadhaar-EPIC linkage will help realise the commission’s plan to work towards secure, possibly electronic, voting to help migrant voters — including domestic workers, migrant labourers etc — exercise their franchise. “Their identification having been adequately verified, the commission can explore technology that will let them vote from a remote location guarded by the EC,” an officer said.
The EC had in 2015 taken up linking of voter card and Aadhaar number as part of its National Electoral Roll Purification and Authentication Programme. Around 32 crore Aadhaar numbers were seeded by the time the EC decided to abandon the programme in view of the Supreme Court judgment restricting the use of Aadhaar.
Following the SC judgment last year allowing mandatory collection of Aadhaar with due amendment in the Aadhaar Act, the EC wrote to the law ministry in August seeking a suitable amendment to enable linking of EPIC with UID. The law ministry had in-principle agreed and a Cabinet note is being prepared.
Other reforms which were on the table on Tuesday include the proposal to allow more than one cutoff date for enrolment of a voter after attaining adulthood, making false affidavit an electoral offence/corrupt practice that would attract disqualification, covering print media and social media intermediaries under Section 126 of the RP Act 1951 (48-hour silence period), making service voter facility for spouses gender-neutral, and amendment in the contributions form.