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"Don't Pass The Buck, Look Into Allegations": Madras High Court To Election Commission On Plea Alleges BJP Targeting Voters Via Aadhaar Data

Sparsh Upadhyay
26 March 2021 4:09 AM GMT
Dont Pass The Buck, Look Into Allegations: Madras High Court To Election Commission On Plea Alleges BJP Targeting Voters Via Aadhaar Data
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In response to a Public Interest Litigation petition filed alleging that the Puducherry unit of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has misused Aadhaar details of voters for election campaigning purposes, the Madras High Court on Wednesday (24th March) directed the Election Commission to look into the allegations immediately and with the degree of seriousness that it deserves. Calling it a...

In response to a Public Interest Litigation petition filed alleging that the Puducherry unit of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has misused Aadhaar details of voters for election campaigning purposes, the Madras High Court on Wednesday (24th March) directed the Election Commission to look into the allegations immediately and with the degree of seriousness that it deserves

Calling it a matter of 'serious nature', the bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy sternly remarked,

"It will not do for the Election Commission to pass the buck in this case and say that the cybercrimes division is conducting an investigation."

The plea before the Court

The plea has been filed by A. Anand, President of the Puducherry State Committee of the Democratic Youth Federation of India.

The plea alleges that the Puducherry BJP Unit has gained unauthorized access to the personal data of the residents of Union Territory of Puducherry from the Aadhar UIDAI database and is illegally using the data for its own political mileage.

Significantly, the plea states that the petitioner as well as other Puducherry citizens received messages on their mobile phones with invitation links to join booth-level WhatsApp groups allegedly created by BJP.

It has been alleged in the plea that such messages were received by only those mobile numbers which are Aadhaar-linked and that, the other numbers (which aren't linked to Aadhaar) belonging to the same person didn't receive such messages.

"For instance, if a person uses two mobile numbers, which is very common nowadays, SMS is only sent to the mobile number linked with Aadhar and not in the other mobile number", the plea states.

The Plea also expresses astonishment regarding the fact that when the electoral rolls provided by the ECI do not include phone numbers, it is unclear as to from where the BJP got access to mobile numbers of the voters.

Significantly, the Plea also states,

"Being the ruling party at the centre, BJP has misused its seat of power and indulged in identity theft under section 66 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, clearly in breach of the fiduciary duty it owes towards its subjects ie., the general public. The said offence is committed with an intention to threaten the security of the country, leading to the offence of cyber terrorism under section 66F of the Information Technology Act, 2000."

Also, the petitioner has stated in his plea that there are 30 Assembly Constituencies in the Union Territory of Puducherry and each Assembly Constituency consists of around 30 to 35 polling booths resulting in around 950 WhatsApp groups.

Allegedly, these WhatsApp groups have been created and are being run for campaigning purposes to garner votes.

The plea also contends that the circumstances are not only a violation of the model of conduct when the Assembly election to the Union Territory of Puducherry is upcoming but a serious threat to the security and integrity of the nation.

Importantly, referring to the ruling of K. S. Puttasamy Vs Union of India (2017 (10) SCC 1), the plea has alleged,

"The ruling BJP at the Centre, has miserably failed to perform its fiduciary duty by intruding the privacy of the voters of the Union Territory of Puducherry for its personal and political interest as against the compelling State interest in utter violation of the law of the land."

Prayers in the plea

  • A Special Investigation Multi-Disciplinary Team, monitored by the Court to probe into the charges against the BJP, Puducherry, in managing to gain unauthorized access to the personal data of the residents of Union Territory of Puducherry from Aadhar UIDAI.
  • Mandatory production of Aadhaar document not be insisted for any service, Government or private, for the residents of the Union Territory of Puducherry
Refrain Puducherry BJP and other political parties from sending SMS with WhatsApp invites to Constituency – Booth wise WhatsApp groups, campaigning to join their political party, pending final disposal of the Writ Petition and thus render justice.

Madras HC's Order

Calling for a report from the Election Commission regarding this matter (on March 26), the Madras High Court said,

"When the Election Commission is up and about in all other matters and asserts its primacy and authority, it has to look into this allegation immediately and with the degree of seriousness that it deserves."

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