Plea alleges BJP, Puducherry is using Aadhaar data to boost political mileage: Madras High Court expresses concern The petitioner claims that SMSes with invite links to BJP WhatsApp groups were sent only to voters having mobile numbers that were linked to Aadhaar. Plea alleges BJP, Puducherry is using Aadhaar data to boost political mileage: Madras High Court expresses concern Madras High Court

Litigation News
Plea alleges BJP, Puducherry is using Aadhaar data to boost political mileage: Madras High Court expresses concern
The petitioner claims that SMSes with invite links to BJP WhatsApp groups were sent only to voters having mobile numbers that were linked to Aadhaar.
Plea alleges BJP, Puducherry is using Aadhaar data to boost political mileage: Madras High Court expresses concern
Madras High Court
Meera Emmanuel
Published on :
26 Mar, 2021 , 9:44 am
A petition has been moved in the Madras High Court calling for a court-monitored probe into whether the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been illegally using Aadhaar data of voters in Puducherry to gain political mileage this election season.

The plea moved by the President of the Democratic Youth Federation of India, Puducherry, A Anand states that Puducherry residents had started receiving SMSes from BJP Puducherry with an invite link to join WhatsApp groups, that were later found to have been run by persons in other BJP-ruled States.

On Wednesday, a Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy said that the Election Commission could not simply pass the buck in this matter by stating that the case is being probed by the cyber crimes division.

The Court has directed the Commission to file a report in the matter by Friday, when the matter will be heard next. Terming the allegations raised to be a matter of serious concern, the Court observed,

“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.”

As per the petitioner, the SMSes in question are being sent to all regions of Puducherry, including Male, Yenam and Puducherry. He has submitted that several booth-level WhatsApp groups have been created by the BJP, Puducherry targeting the voters of the corresponding booth.

He has stated that, after he received such a message himself, he contacted the WhatsApp group administrator and enquired how the mobile numbers was obtained. The administrator is stated to have asked the petitioner to approach the BJP Puducherry Party office. On being asked why the petitioner’s name was added, the administrator is alleged to have replied that there are WhatsApp groups for around 952 booths in Puducherry and that all voters were being added in the WhatsApp Groups.

Coupled with this, it is also alleged that spam calls are being made campaigning for BJP, Puducherry. The petitioner states that he too received a call, wherein the caller clearly gave the petitioner’s name, the booth and the constituency in which he has to vote.

The petitioner goes on to state that he was shocked to find out from others that this was only being down with persons who had numbers linked to Aadhaar. He notes that the electoral data shared with Chief Electoral Officers also do not contain mobile numbers, but rather only the names and photos of voters.

The petitioner has accused the BJP Government at the Centre of having miserably failed to perform its fiduciary duties and of having intruded on the privacy of voters for personal and political interests, in utter violation of the law.

He adds that while cybercrime officials were given screenshots of the SMSes and WhatsApp group invites, no further action has been taken. He also says that the election authorities were approached over the matter. He goes on to state that after he made the complaints, members of the BJP came to his house and collected the numbers of all his family members.

In this backdrop, on apprehensions that the elections to be conducted may not be free and fair, the petitioner has urged for the conduct of an investigation by an external agency, also given that the matter involves national ramifications and persons holding positions of political power.

It is further highlighted that the alleged actions would constitute violations of the Information Technology Act, the Aadhaar Act and the Indian Penal Code.

As interim relief, the petitioner had also called on the Court to direct the election authorities to refrain from insisting on the mandatory production of Aadhar for any service, government or private, for residents of Puducherry. In this regard, given the allegations raised in the petition, the petitioner has also raised concern over the recent proposal announced by Union Law Minister RS Prasad to link Aadhaar with electoral rolls.

The matter will be now heard on Friday, March 26.

[Read the Order passed on Wednesday]

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