If ID with private firm, why not with the government?: Supreme Court on Aadhaar

Aadhaar Number

New Delhi, Jan 19: While hearing the matter related to constitutional validity of Aadhaar,the Supreme Court on Thursday asked petitioners what was their objection in sharing address proof with the government when there was no problem sharing it with private parties.

“If you need insurance, you go to a private party. If you need a phone, you go to a private party… If private player asks for address proof, it is okay. But if government do the same, then (the argument is) it’s at the core of my identity,” stated Justice D Y Chandrachud, one of the five judges on the Constitution Bench.

“If you apply for a job, the first thing they ask is your address proof, and salary is admitted to a private bank,” he asserted.

Responding to this, Senior Supreme Court advocate, Shyam Divan appearing for petitioners, said there was a difference between sharing details with a private party known to one and an unknown one.

“The question is: Can the State compel you to give your information to a private party which is totally out of control of UIDAI and is then free to put this to commercial use”, Divan said.

Reacting to this, Justice Chandrachud stated the court would like to know what safeguards were put in place by Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to preserve someone’s personal data.

Divan further added the petitioners were concerned regarding the integrity of information collected by private enrollers. And the apprehension was validated by the government’s statement in Parliament when, on April 10, it said that in the past six years it had cancelled and blacklisted 34,000 operators who tried to “pollute the system”. Since December 2016, action had been taken against 1,000 operators, the Hindustan Times quoted.

Divan asked the bench to bear in mind three aspects — integrity of the process followed for collection of personal and biometric data, integrity of information being collected, and the pervasive invasion of the fundamental rights in view of the apex court’s privacy judgement.

After that he drew the court’s attention to the Aadhaar enrolment form, as it existed prior to the enactment of the Aadhaar legislation of 2016. Divan pointed out the form says enrolment is voluntary.

Petitioners lawyer said  part B of the form requires the applicant to provide mobile number and bank account details. The collection of such sensitive information is purely a sovereign function and cannot be delegated to private firms. “State alone can be trustee,” he asserted in the end.

The bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and four other judges Justices A.M. Khanwilkar, Adarsh Kumar Sikri, D.Y.Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan is the hearing pleas on seeking interim relief against the central government’s decision on linking of Aadhaar with various schemes.

Earlier on Wednesday, Shyam Divan had told the bench that Aadhaar may cause death of citizens’ civil rights, news agency ANI quoted.

Divan further stated that people’s constitution was being converted into a state’s Constitution and it was incorrect to take people’s biometric data for Aadhaar Card.

The 12- digit unique identification number, supported by biometric data, is being opposed by many on security and privacy grounds.

The apex court has also received petitions regarding the linkage of this 12-digit number with mobile phones, bank accounts and so on.

Earlier, on December 7 last year, the Centre told the top court that the deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar to avail various services and welfare schemes would be extended until 31 March 2018.


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