National Voter’s Day (NVD) is celebrated all over India to mark the formation of Election Commission of India on 25th January, 1950; a day before Indian Constitution came into force. On this day, newly eligible registered voters are handed over their Electronic Photo Identity Card (EPICs) and a badge with the slogan “Proud to be a voter-Ready to Vote”. All electors/public present during the NVD celebration are administered NVD pledge across the country on all Polling locations. Outreach measures like Symposia, cycle rallies, human chain, folk-art programmes, mini- marathon races, competitions and awareness seminars for climate building and awareness generation are held on this occasion.
Who can get registered as a voter?
- He must be a citizen of India.
- He must not be less than 18 years of age on the appointed day.
- He must not be otherwise disqualified under the Constitution or any law made by the appropriate Legislature on the ground of non-residence, unsoundness of mind, crime, corrupt or illegal practice. (Article 326).
The responsibility of superintendence, direction, and control of the preparation of electoral rolls and the conduct of all major elections in the country has been bestowed upon the ECI by the Constitution. (Article 324-329).
Therefore, it becomes the responsibility of ECI to organize and periodically amend electoral rolls and to register all qualified voters. It also has to issue Electronic Photo Identity Card (EPIC).
Revision of electoral rolls
The Election Commission normally undertakes revision of existing electoral roll every year sometime in the months of September to October and such revised rolls are finally published in first week of January of the coming year. One can submit application for inclusion of the name in the electoral roll (Form 6 for residents and Form 6A for non- residents) during the period for lodging claims and objections to Electoral Registration Officer or an officer designated to receive such applications, i.e., Designated Officer. Even after final publication, the rolls are updated continuously and one can get registered anytime during the continuous updation by filing a claim application to Electoral Registration Officer / Assistant Electoral Registration Officer.
Deletion of names from voters list
To delete a person’s name from voters list is an elaborate process. The person needs to fill Form 7 in person or online and submit an application duly signed by the voter, giving detailed reason why they wish to be deleted from the voters list.
However, ECI on its own can delete a person’s name from voters list. Such deletion of voters is done when the EC notices: (i) an erroneous or defective entry in the electoral rolls, (ii) shifting from one place of residence to another place by the voters or (iii) death of voters, after following due process. Such due process to be followed by the EC is specified in Section 22 of the Representation of People Act, 1901(RPA, 1950), which says that the electoral registration officer shall give the person concerned (i.e., other than death cases) a reasonable opportunity of being heard in respect of the action proposed to be taken in relation to him [after proper verification of facts in such manner as may be prescribed].
The commission had announced that it had removed 11 lakh voters’ names from the 2021 electoral list in Telangana. It was also reported that 11 lakh voters names were missing from the voters list in 2017 BMC elections in Mumbai. Whether the EC had given a reasonable opportunity to all those voters as prescribed in Section 22 of RPA, 1950, whose names have been deleted from the voters list is not clearly known.
In its July, 29th ,2015 order, in the Sumit vs. Chief Election Officer (CEO) case, the Central Information Commission (CIC) upheld the voter’s right and directed that the appellant be paid Rs.10,000 as compensation for not being informed about the deletion of his name from the voters’ list and further being denied information on it under the RTI Act. It is a known fact that Booth Level Officers (BLOs) of Election Commission face political pressures at field level which leads to such practices.
Linking of Aadhar with Voter ID Card
The linking of Aadhaar with voter ID card is voluntary but not mandatory. Linking Aadhar with Voter ID Card enables the ECI to easily identify duplicate voters in its data base and eliminate the same from the voters list. Also, linking of Aadhar can prevent the issuance of duplicate voter ID Cards. Normally, multiple voter IDs likely to be generated when the voters shift their residence and apply for fresh ID cards, without seeking cancellation of their old ID cards.
Union Government, in a notification issued on June 17, 2002, notified April 1, 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”.
Rule 26B of the Registration of Electors (Amendment) Rules 2022., dealing with “special provision for providing Aadhaar number by existing electors”, states that “every person whose name is listed in the roll may intimate his Aadhaar number to the registration officer in Form 6B in accordance with sub-section (5) of Section 23 of the Act”.
A case was filed in the supreme Court stating that under the guise of authentication of electoral rolls, the Centre and EC are forcing the voters to submit the Aadhaar number without providing them an option, which is against Articles 14, 21 of the Constitution (equality before law and right to privacy). Besides, there is a possibility of misusing the personal data of the voters who have submitted their Aadhaar numbers, alleged the petitioner.
The Election Commission (EC) has told the Supreme Court that it is not mandatory to provide Aadhaar numbers for linking with the electoral roll, and it is considering issuing “appropriate clarificatory changes” in enrolment forms to reflect this.
Disposing of the plea, the SC, in its September 18, 2023 order, advised the EC to ensure that the submission of the Aadhaar number is not mandatory under Rule 26-B of the Registration of Electors (Amendment) Rules 2022 and look into issuing appropriate clarificatory changes in the forms introduced for that purpose.
Incidentally, the ECI informed the Supreme Court Bench that “nearly 66.23 crore Aadhaar numbers have already been uploaded in the process of finalising electoral rolls”.
Form 6B is meant for electoral roll authentication by the voter which requires Aadhar number and in lieu of it any one of the following documents:
MGNREGA Job Card.
Passbook with photograph issued by Bank/Post Office.
Health Insurance Smart Card issued under the scheme of Ministry of Labour.
Smart Card issued by RGI under NPR.
Pension document with photograph.
Service Identity Card with photograph issued to employees by Central/State Govt./PSUs/Public Limited Companies.
Official Identity Card issued to MPs/MLAs/MLCs.
Unique Identity ID (UDID) Card, issued by M/o Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India.
Though, providing Aadhar details is not mandatory, ECI can educate the voters on the benefits of linking Aadhar with voters ID cards and encourage voluntary submission of the same. Voters need to check their names in the voters list by visiting the ECI website periodically, particularly before the elections and escalate the matter when their names are deleted in the voters list without their consent. They also have the option to approach courts in this regard so that ECI and its staff will be more careful while deleting the voters names and follow the due process as prescribed in Section 22 of the Representation of People Act, 1901 (RPA, 1950).
Though the Indian constitution has given voting rights to all adult citizens, people should realise that every right comes with a duty and therefore, ensuring that their names appear in the voters list and exercising their franchise during the elections is an implicit duty. No wonder, “every nation has the government it deserves”, said Joseph de Maistre, (1 April 1753 – 26 February 1821). Ironically, he was advocating for royal monarchies as the best form of government, but that is true for democracy as well.
–Dr. B.N.V. Parthasarathi