Voter list relationship between Aadhaar and EC: If Aadhaar data is compromised, poll officials could face harsh punishment

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The Election Commission has threatened to take “severe” disciplinary action against electoral registration officers for any leakages of physical forms filled out by voters to share their Aadhaar details, days after rules were issued allowing the linking of Aadhaar with voters lists to weed out duplicate entries.

Additionally, the Commission emphasised that submitting an Aadhaar by voters is “optional.”

The poll panel stated that special camps at the cluster level can be set up on the dates that coincide with special campaign dates during special summary revision, where the electors can be persuaded to voluntarily provide their Aadhaar number in Form-6B in hard copy. This was stated in a letter sent to chief electoral officers of all states and Union territories on July 4.

An announcement from the law ministry states that current voters may provide poll officials with their Aadhaar number by utilising the recently introduced Form-6B.

The Central Government hereby notifies the 1st April 2023 as the date on or before which every person whose name is included in the electoral roll may intimate his Aadhaar number in accordance with the said section, in exercise of the powers granted by sub-section (5) of Section 23 of the Representation of the People Act, 1950 (43 of 1950).

A senior official had recently stated, “The notification utilises the term’may’ and not’shall,’ which makes revealing facts voluntary.

The electoral registration officer (ERO) “will make it clear to the electors that the purpose of obtaining of Aadhaar number is for authentication of his entries in electoral roll and extending better electoral services to them in the future… It is stressed that submission of Aadhaar by electors is voluntary,” the letter stated, claiming that providing an Aadhaar number is “purely voluntary.”

The letter restates that the ERO would not remove any entry from the electoral roll due to a current voter’s inability to provide their Aadhaar number, as stated in the Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021.

The letter stated that under no circumstances should the Aadhaar number be made public in reference to security measures for its collection and handling. The Aadhaar details must be hidden or erased if the voter’s information must be made publicly available.

The provisions of the Aadhaar (Authentication and Offline Verification) Regulations, 2022, which state that Aadhaar numbers collected through physical forms or photocopies of Aadhaar letters must be masked by the requested entity by redacting the first 8 digits of the Aadhaar number before storing the physical copies, will be strictly adhered to as far as the preservation of Form-6B in hard copy containing an Aadhaar number is concerned.

After being digitised, such gathered Form 6B and attachments must be stored in a secure location with a double lock by EROs. If physical forms are leaked into the public domain, EROs would face severe disciplinary action, the Commission said.

It stated that the 12-digit Aadhaar number that was digitally entered into ERONET through a variety of input channels will never, ever be stored there. The letter stressed that “This number should be held in Licensed Aadhaar Vault contracted by ECI in accordance with relevant UIDAI standards.”