NEW DELHI, July 25 (PTI): The Supreme Court on Monday asked Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala, who has challenged the Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021 that enables linking of electoral roll data with the Aadhaar ecosystem, to approach the competent high court.
A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and A S Bopanna, which asked Surjewala’s counsel as to why he had not moved the high court first, granted the politician liberty to approach the high court.
“Why don’t you move the Delhi High Court? You will have the same remedy. You are challenging sections 4 and 5 of the Election Laws (Amendment) Act of 2021. Why have you come here? You can go to the Delhi High Court,” the bench observed.
The counsel representing the Congress leader said three states will go to elections in the next six months, while underlining the significance of the petition.
The bench noted if there are different petitions, the Union of India can file a transfer petition and the apex court might club the matters before one high court.
“An efficacious alternative remedy is available before the high court in the exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution,” it said.
“In view of the remedy which is available in the law, we grant liberty to the petitioner to move a petition under Article 226 (of the Constitution) before the competent high court,” the bench said.
Article 226 empowers high courts to issue writs in various matters to any person or authority, including the government.
The top court was hearing Surjewala’s plea challenging the constitutional validity of section 4 and 5 of the Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021.
The petition contended the amendment “intends to link two completely distinct documents (along with their data), i.e., the Aadhaar card, which is a proof of residency (permanent or temporary) and EPIC/Voter ID, which is a proof of citizenship. Hence, making it amply evident that the linkage of Aadhaar and Voter ID is completely irrational.”
The plea sought the court to declare that sections 4 and 5 of the Election Laws (Amendment) Act, 2021 infringe upon the citizens’ fundamental right to privacy and therefore are unconstitutional and ultra vires the Constitution.
“Henceforth, the linking of Aadhaar data with EPIC (Electronic Electoral Photo Identity Card) data, will allow the personal and private data of voters to be available to a statutory authority and shall impose a limitation on the voters, i.e., the voters will now have to establish their identity before the Electoral Registration Officer (respondent no. 2) by furnishing their respective Aadhaar details,” it said.
“The situation will further be aggravated by the fact that at present there are no laws for protecting the data of citizens,” the plea contended.
It claimed the impugned amendment may even enable voter profiling as all the demographic information linked to Aadhaar shall be linked with the voter ID.
The petitioner said this may even increase the chances of voter surveillance and commercial exploitation of private, sensitive data of voters.
“Elections are the cornerstone of any democratic society and hence, this endeavour of the government to introduce electoral reforms should have been done with proper discussion in the Houses (of Parliament). However, in the present case, the impugned amendment has been passed in Parliament on the very same day it was placed before the Houses without proper discussion or debate,” it said.