Voter deletion row continues: ECI says software can’t think on its own

Denying all allegations that Aadhaar data was collected without the consent of the elector, the ECI said that no Aadhaar data has either been collected or used since August 2015.

Published: 14th March 2019 10:55 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th March 2019 10:55 AM   |  A+A-

By Express News Service

HYDERABAD: The ROW continues on the deletion of lakhs of voter names in the two Telugu states with the Election Commission of India on Wednesday stating that there was no way the Aadhaar-supported software designed by the commission could have deleted the names on its own. Responding to a PIL filed by Hyderabad-based security researcher Srinivas Kodali, the ECI on Wednesday told the Telangana High Court that there was no algorithm in its software which could take the decision of deleting a name off the rolls by virtue of its own intelligence. If any duplicate entries were found, the Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) were responsible for following a due legal procedure to correct the entries in the rolls, it noted. 

The ECI counsel submitted about filing of the counter affidavit before the division bench of Chief Justice TBN Radhakrishnan and Justice A Rajasheker Reddy dealing with the PIL. ECI further clarified the software, used during the controversial 2015 voter purification drive -- National Electoral Roll Purification and Authentication Programme (NERPAP) -- was only meant for maintaining a database relating to electoral rolls. 

It said, the software facilitates the electoral administration to prepare and purify the rolls, but it does not delete any name directly suo-motu. It is the EROs who are empowered under Section 22 of the Representation of the People Act, 1950 and Rule 21A of the Registration of Electors Rules, 1960 to carry out deletions and corrections of names in the electoral rolls, and bound to follow a due legal procedure for the same.

Denying all allegations that Aadhaar data was collected without the consent of the elector, the ECI said that no Aadhaar data has either been collected or used since August 2015. The voluntary Aadhaar data collected for a short period in 2015 has nothing to do with the current electoral rolls. The data is secure and not shared. The data collected for linking of Aadhaar in 2015 is not being utilised for any purpose keeping in view of the Supreme Court directions. As for deletion of voters, it occurs mainly due to shifting of electors from the address where his/her name is enrolled in the electoral roll and due to death of elector, it added. The bench posted matters to Thursday for hearing.

Earlier this year in February, the response to an RTI query brought to fore a 2015 letter by the former CEO who flagged an extreme shortage of officials and said door-to-door verification had not been done properly under NERPAP. The admission indicated that ECI relied heavily on the software to delete voters. 

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