Centre’s proposed amendment to births & deaths Act aims to create Aadhaar-linked master database, say experts

With access to such data, the Centre will be able to update the National Population Register, which is the first step in the creation of the National Register of Citizens

Representational image
Representational image

Ashlin Mathew

The Union Home Ministry has extended the deadline to December 2, 2021 for consultations to amend the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969, which will enable the government to maintain a database of registered births and deaths nationally. Earlier, the last date for submission of consultations was November 17, 2021.

Under the guise of making the Act ‘people-friendly and simple’, it proposes to add Aadhaar number, ration card details, passport and driving license databases and is likely to be used to update the Population Register and the electoral register.

The new Section 3(A), which is proposed to be inserted in the Act, states that “the Registrar General, India, shall maintain the database of registered births and deaths at national level, that may be used, with the approval of Central Government, to update Population Register prepared under the Citizenship Act, 1955; Electoral Registers or Electoral Rolls prepared under Representation of People Act, 1951; Aadhaar Database prepared under Aadhaar Act, 2016; Ration Card database prepared under National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA); Passport Database prepared under the Passport Act; and Driving License database under Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019 and other databases at national level subject to proviso of Section 17 (1) of RBD Act, 1969.”

Currently, the local registrar in each state is responsible for the registration of births and deaths. Under the proposed new Section 4(A), the Chief Registrar appointed by the state shall maintain a “unified database of civil registration records at state level, and integrate with the database at national level maintained by Registrar General, India, in prescribed manner.”

This would mean that the Union government will also be repository of the state data.

Under Section 8, under which it mentions the persons who can register birth and death, the new proposal mentions that they should have “prescribed, information to the Registrar of the several particulars including Aadhaar number, if available, of parents and the informant in case of birth, and of the deceased, parents, husband or wife and the informant in case of death”.

With access to such data, the government will be able to update the National Population Register, which is the first step in the creation of the National Register of Citizens.

“The Ministry of Home Affairs is trying to create a master database by linking all these databases using Aadhaar as it intended when it wanted to build the NatGrid after the Mumbai Attacks. They want to complete what they started in 2008,” said Srinivas Kodali, researcher with Free Software Movement of India.

The Home Ministry, pointed out Kodali, is also trying to link the voter database with Aadhaar, which the Supreme Court clearly opposed in the privacy judgement in the Justice KS Puttaswamy vs Union of India case.

“This move of the Ministry fundamentally threatens representation of minorities in the similar way that voters were deleted from the voters list after linking it with Aadhaar in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. This is also concerning because Census data and this data will be used during delimitation in 2026,” underscored Kodali.

Another proposed change is that the special sub-registrars who may be appointed in the event of a disaster could do spot registration of deaths and issue extracts.

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