Days after rules were issued allowing linkage of Aadhaar with voter's list to weed out duplicate entries, the Election Commission has warned of "severe" disciplinary action against electoral registration officers for any leakages of physical forms filled by electors to share their Aadhaar details.
The Commission has also emphasised that submission of Aadhaar by electors is "voluntary".
In a letter sent to chief electoral officers of all states and Union territories on July 4, the poll panel said special camps at cluster level can be arranged on the dates coinciding with special campaign dates during special summary revision, where the electors can be persuaded to give their Aadhaar number voluntarily in Form-6B in hard copy.
According to a law ministry notification, using the newly-introduced Form-6B, existing voters may share their Aadhaar number will poll authorities.
"In exercise of the powers conferred by sub-section (5) of Section 23 of the Representation of the People Act, 1950 (43 of 1950), 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," read the notification.
"The notification uses the term 'may' and not 'shall' which makes sharing details voluntary," a senior functionary had explained recently.
Asserting that furnishing of Aadhaar number is "purely voluntary", the letter said 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 future... It is emphasised that submission of Aadhaar by electors is voluntary".
The letter reiterates what was mentioned in the Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021 that the ERO will not delete any entry in the electoral roll on the ground of inability on the part of any existing elector to furnish Aadhaar number.
Referring to security measures for collecting and handling Aadhaar number, the letter said "in no circumstances, it should go in public domain. If the elector's information is required to put for public display, the Aadhaar details must be removed or masked".
As for preservation of Form-6B in hard copy containing Aadhaar number, the provisions of a regulation of Aadhaar (Authentication and Offline Verification) Regulations, 2022 will be strictly followed which says that Aadhaar numbers collected through physical forms or photocopies of Aadhaar letters will be masked by the requested entity by redacting the first 8 digits of the Aadhaar number before storing the physical copies.
"Such collected Form 6B along with attachment, after digitisation, shall be kept in safe custody with double lock by EROs. Severe disciplinary action will be initiated against EROs for any leakages of physical forms in public domain," the Commission warned.
It said under no circumstances, the 12-digit Aadhaar number digitised in ERONET through various input channels will be stored in ERONET. "This number should be stored in Licensed Aadhaar Vault hired by ECI in accordance with relevant regulations of UIDAI," the letter underlined.