New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notice to Centre and others on a plea claiming that the Election Commission (EC) has indulged in “voter profiling” by deploying an “undisclosed software” to link voter records to Aadhaar.
Petitioner Srinivas Kodali, an engineer from Hyderabad, moved the apex court challenging the validity of the Telangana High Court’s order, which dismissed his PIL on April 21, 2022.
A bench, headed by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and comprising Justice P.S. Narasimha, agreed to examine Kodali’s plea, saying “it is an important issue” and issued notice to the Central government, the EC, and others.
Kodali, who is an IIT Madras graduate, submitted that “In an effort to ‘purify’ electoral rolls, the EC in 2015, (i) suo motu deleted 46 lakh entries from the electoral rolls in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, (ii) linked Electors Photo Identity Card (‘EPIC’) with Unique Identification (‘UID’) or Aadhaar, (iii) seeded EPIC data with the State Resident Data Hub (‘SRDH’), and (iv) allowed the state governments to access and copy EPIC data”.
The plea argued that while the EPIC-Aadhaar linking was carried out under the National Electoral Rolls Purification and Authentication Programme (‘NERPAP’), rest of the measures were carried out without specific policy, guidelines, or authorisation in any form.
“The EC’s impugned actions to ‘purify’ electoral rolls – using an automated process; from data received from Aadhaar and state governments; and without proper notice or consent from voters- is a blatant infringement on the right to vote,” said the plea.
It added that the EC’s actions to permit electronic linkages between EPIC data, Aadhaar, and SRDH is an unconstitutional invasion on voter privacy and the right against voter profiling. The plea contended that despite these glaring violations, the high court accepted the EC’s counter-affidavit without demur and dismissed the PIL.
The plea said the EC abdicated its constitutional duty under Article 324 and statutory obligation under the Representation of the People Act, 1950 to prepare electoral rolls without the aid or assistance from the government or electronic databases under their control.
“Furthermore, the voting rights of millions of voters in two states were deprived without due process. And egregiously, the EC’s decision to create electronic linkages between voter ID and other government-owned databases has exposed voters to be profiled, targeted, and manipulated by entities with access to the data. The EC’s actions, therefore, threaten the sanctity and integrity of elections,” it added.
The petitioner claimed that the high court declined to consider that the EC deployed an undisclosed software to identify duplicate, dead, and shifted voters. It further argued that the high court failed to see that there was no valid law, rule, or regulation to use a software or algorithm as an aid or substitute for verifying electoral rolls.