Aadhar Verdict: Some respite for the common Man atlast?
Aadhar Verdict: Some respite for the common Man atlast? | Credit: Thehindu

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Aadhar Verdict: Some respite for the common Man atlast?

Sep 27, 2018

The supreme court struck down the Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act which means that private entities such as private banks, e-commerce firms, telecom companies cannot ask for biometric and other data from consumers for their services. 

A 5-judge bench of the apex court was passing the judgement as Section 57 could violate the right to privacy of the citizens. The constitutional validity of Aadhaar is challenged by 31 petitions on the grounds. Section 3(2), Section 7, Section 28, Section 29, Section 57 are the sections of Aadhaar act which are highly contentious as this point. 

Section 3(2):

The provision mandates that an enrolling agency shall, at the time of enrolment, inform the individual the manner in which the information shall be used; the nature of recipients with whom the information is intended to be shared during authentication; the existence of a right to access information, the procedure for making requests for such access and details of the person or department in-charge to whom such requests can be made. The Judge Panel has raised questions on this provisions to the Unique Identification Authority of India while collecting personal data.

Section 7:

This is the section which has been the great focal point of the Aadhaar litigation. This section mandates people to produce the Aadhaar enrollment number or Aadhaar card to access the services and benefits whose funds are drawn from the Consolidated Funds of India.

 Section 28(1):

This provision mandates the entity shall ensure the security of information provided by the individuals for identity purposes.

Section 29(1):

Finally, Section 29 (1) puts the onus on the UIDAI that no core biometric information, collected or created under the Act, shall be shared with anyone for any reason whatsoever; used for any purpose other than generation of Aadhaar numbers and authentication under this Act.

Section 57:

State, body corporate or person can request for Aadhaar, but in consonance with a law or to a contract to that effect. It is this provision that gives statutory support to mobile companies, private service providers to seek individuals' Aadhaar card for identification purposes.

The apex court said Aadhaar is serving much bigger public interest and Aadhaar means unique and it is better to be unique than being best. There are three sets of judgements being pronounced on the issue.

Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra delivered the verdict on a batch of petitions regarding this issue. The latest updates given by Krishnadas Rajagopal is as follows:

Justice Chandrachud, in his judgment, says individuals cannot be asked to wait upon the vicissitudes of algorithms. He says authentication data can only be retained for six months. Picking holes on Aadhaar law, Justice Chandrachud says the law provided no grievance redressal mechanism, regulators or independent monitoring authority.

Justice Chandrachud also warns leakage from central database will pave way for surveillance. There was no legal or statutory backing for collection of personal data by private entities prior to Aadhaar Act, he observes.

Justice Sikri said: "Only minimum biometrics of iris and fingerprints are sought. The information is collected in silos. There is no merging of silos. Authentication is not on the Internet, nature of transaction is not shared and registered devices are used."

Justice Sikri said unique identification proof also empowers and gives identity to marginalised sections of society. There is no possibility of obtaining a duplicate Aadhaar card, he said, adding that there is sufficient defence mechanism for authentication in the Aadhaar scheme. The concept of human dignity has been enlarged in the judgement, he said.

Justice Chandrachud has said the passing of Aadhaar Act as Money Bill is a fraud on the Constitution. Justice Sikri's judgment however said Aadhaar Bill can be a Money Bill and hence it can only cover benefits drawn from Consolidated Fund of India.

Supreme Court added that CBSE, NEET, UGC cannot make Aadhaar mandatory and it is not compulsory for school admissions. The apex court also said the linking of Aadhaar for opening of bank accounts and for mobile connections is not mandatory. However, it made Aadhaar mandatory for filing of IT returns and allotment of Permanent Account Number.