Chennai: Hearing a complaint from a public interest litigant alleging that the BJP has used mobile phone numbers linked to Aadhaar ID to reach out to voters in Puducherry, the Madras High Court on Friday directed the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to conduct a probe. During the course of the hearing, the court questioned if Assembly polls in the Union Territory, slated for April 6, should be put off till the probe is over. However, the court did not press for this.
The first bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy, however, expressed displeasure over the UIDAI’s submission that it had not received any complaint from the litigant. “You could have acted on the basis of information provided to you by the Election Commission,” the bench said.
The court directed the UIDAI to ascertain if the Aadhaar data of citizens has been compromised and how the BJP Puducherry unit accessed mobile phone numbers of voters from the UIDAI database, as alleged by the litigant.
Anand, a representative of the Puducherry unit of Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) had in his petition submitted that the BJP was sending SMS messages to voters, whose phone numbers were linked to Aadhaar ID, asking them to join the party’s booth level WhatsApp group. He claimed that only voters whose phone numbers were linked to Aadhaar data had received the bulk SMSes.
Directing a probe, the bench said, “It is apparent that the sixth respondent political party [BJP] may have resorted to a form of campaigning not permissible under the [election] model code of conduct. It is also evident that personal details of voters and citizens may have been obtained by such political party and put to use for campaign purposes.”
The judges disapproved of the UIDAI seeking to blame the petitioner for not having brought the issue to its notice instead of “trying to ascertain how the personal details of voters may have been leaked from its system.”
Pointing out that the Election Commission has submitted that it had brought the issue to the UIDAI’s notice, the judges said the latter “should immediately ascertain how such material could have been accessed by a particular political party.”
The court granted the Election Commission time till March 31 to submit another status report. The Election Commission must take immediate action if bulk SMSes were sent even now.