India Moves to Link Biometric Programme With Electoral Rolls Amid Surveillance Concerns

© AP Photo / Manish SwarupA statue of Mahatma Gandhi overlooks the Indian parliament building (File)
A statue of Mahatma Gandhi overlooks the Indian parliament building (File) - Sputnik International, 1920, 20.12.2021
India has mandated Aadhar, a Hindi word meaning "foundation", for the entire population to make it challenging to forge identification and reduce leakages in government welfare programmes. However, critics allege that the government is linking this biometric ID with other programmes to keep tabs on the general public.
On Monday, the lower house of the Indian Parliament passed a bill to link electoral roll data with the biometric system Aadhar amid massive protests and boycotts by the opposition.
Law Minister Kiren Rijiju, who put forth the bill in the lower house, said the law would remove bogus voter cards and make the electoral process more credible.
Called the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021, it allows electoral registration officers to seek Aadhaar for people who want to register as voters "for the purpose of establishing their identity".
The bill passed even as parliamentarians from Congress, Trinamool Congress, and others parties stood in the Well of the House, shouting slogans against the government.
Nishikant Dube, an MP from the governing BJP, said this law will end the politics that patronise specific religions even if these people are from neighbouring countries.
"Bangladeshis, Nepalis, and other foreigners will not be able to vote anymore", Dube said while accusing opposition members of supporting illegal residents to obtain votes during elections.
Asaduddin Owaisi, a four-time MP and the president of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, said the legislation will take away the autonomy of the Election Commission.

"Subjecting voter enrolling to Aadhar violates the sanctity of the constitutional process... It will end up violating the principle of secret ballot and fundamental rights of privacy", Owaisi said.

Rejecting the allegations, Rijiju said various proposals, which are part of the bill, have already been suggested and recommended by parliamentary committees.
In terms of privacy concerns, the minister said that the law is valid even if tested against the parameters fixed by the nation's highest court, which upheld the right to privacy as being a fundamental right.
In a 2017 ruling, the Supreme Court laid down a triple test that needed to be satisfied for judging the permissible limits for invasion of privacy to validate every piece of legislation. These three points are permissible law, legitimate state interests, and test of proportionality.
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