The Madras High Court has asked why the Assembly elections in Puducherry should not be postponed until the probe into the allegations of the state’s BJP unit indulging in targeted voter campaigning by using mobile numbers attached to Aadhaar is complete. The question came up on a plea filed by the state President of DYFI, who accused BJP of using unauthorised access to Aadhaar data to target voters at a booth level.
On Wednesday, the court directed the Election Commission of India (ECI) to file a report by Friday on the matter. The court had also said that the ECI cannot turn a blind eye towards these allegations and put the onus on the police cyber cell to probe it. The case relates to bulk SMSes allegedly sent by the Puducherry BJP unit to voters’ mobile phones with invite links to WhatsApp groups at the booth level.
The petitioner had alleged that the SMSes were being received only on mobile numbers attached to Aadhaar cards and raised questions on how the state BJP unit gained access to the Aadhaar data of lakhs of voters in Puducherry. The case is heard by the Principal Bench consisting Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy who, on Wednesday, directed ECI to conduct the probe and not expect cyber cells to do the task, since the allegations levelled by the petitioner are serious.
On Friday, when the case came up for hearing, the ECI told the court that the probe into the issue is ongoing by the cyber cell. The Commission further submitted that the BJP had not sought its permission to canvas for votes through bulk SMSes and their notice to the state’s BJP unit sent on March 7 seeking an explanation has not been responded to. Adding that contrary to BJP’s claims of having sought permission the ECI has not received any such request, the Commission said that based on the cyber cell report, action would be taken against the accused. The ECI also said that without conducting a full probe, action cannot be taken against the accused.
Noting down the submissions, the judges ordered the UIDAI to investigate how the Puducherry BJP got access to the voters’ mobile numbers and questioned why the elections in the state should not be postponed until the probe is completed. Ordering the ECI and the UIDAI to conduct a detailed investigation and submit reports to the court, the judges posted the case to March 31.