Last month, we shared with you an incident wherein an IFF staffer was asked by a Booth Level Officer (‘BLO’) to share their Aadhaar details to enable its linking with their voter ID. Upon refusing to do so (because they were aware that such linking is purely “voluntary”), the BLO shared that their voter ID will then be deleted from the electoral roll. Have you or someone you know faced something similar recently? Chances are, yes. We say this because the Election Commission of India circulated a letter addressed to the Chief Electoral Officers (CEO) of all states and union territories (UT) dated July 04, 2022, which included instructions for a programme to collect Aadhaar numbers of existing voters. This country wide programme began on August 01, 2022.
Under the subheading ‘Objectives of the programme’, the letter clearly states that “submission of Aadhaar number is voluntary on the part of the elector”. Despite clear instructions given by the ECI to the CEOs, several aggrieved voters voiced their concerns as they had similar unfortunate interactions with their respective BLOs. As a result, we filed an RTI application on August 23, 2022 with the office of the CEOs for all 28 states and 8 UTs of the country. In the interest of increasing public awareness around this issue, we are sharing the RTI responses we received either from the office of District Election Officers or CEOs throughout the country here (this folder and this post will be updated as and when we receive responses from more States).
Several of the RTI responses included the letter dated July 04 in the Annexure, which clarified the voluntary nature of this programme. Furthermore, in a positive turn of events, 6 states/ UT (namely, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Andhra Pradesh, Sikkim, and Jharkhand) in their response to our RTI application reiterated the voluntary nature of this exercise. One such letter of significance was the RTI response received from the state of Sikkim. The response included a letter dated August 26, 2022, addressed to all the CEOs in the country, in which the ECI issued a clarification regarding the amendment to the electoral registration process (i.e., regarding the Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021). One of the queries listed in the letter read, “In cases where an elector deliberately conceals his/her Aadhaar number while applying for new enrolment in Form 6 and later on it is revealed that the elector possesses Aadhaar no. what action is required in such cases?”
The clarification issued by the ECI on this query read, “Furnishing of Aadhaar for authentication is purely voluntary. Necessary instruction in this regard has been issued vide Commission letter no.23/inst./2022-ERS dated 04.07.2022, the same may be followed scrupulously.”
Thus, there is more than enough evidence to confirm that the process of linking Aadhaar with voter ID is in fact voluntary and not mandatory, despite what your BLO might say. Nevertheless, if you encounter such a scenario where one insists that the linking is mandatory, show them this thread. Do keep handy the shareable infographic attached in the thread to spread awareness
You may also file a complaint on the ECI National Grievance Service portal.