Government calls Aadhaar verdict historic, says Congress cuts a `sorry figure`

Charlene Craig
September 26, 2018

"We welcome the Supreme Court's decision to strike down Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act".

The Judgment was delivered by five Judge bench comprising of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice Kurian Joseph, Justice R F Nariman, Justice S K Kaul and Justice Indu Malhotra. The judgment also stated that Aadhaar numbers would be erased from the telecom operators' database.

So as per the court's verdict, private entities can not use Aadhaar information to authenticate the identity of the person.

In the same year, the SC extended the voluntary use of Aadhaar card to Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), all types of pensions schemes, employee provident fund and the Prime Minister Jan Dhan Yojana.

The hearing of the Aadhaar case was one of the longest in the Supreme Court, second only to the landmark Kesavananda Bharati case. He, however, added that since the goal of the Aadhaar Act is inclusion, striking down the law for excluding people would be akin to "throwing the baby along with the bathwater".

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It would not be mandatory for school admissions, as also for the examinations conducted by the Central Board of Secondary Examination, National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for medical entrance and the University Grants Commission.

The Supreme Court ruled that the Aadhaar card is not needed for school admissions and mobile phone connections, neither it is mandatory for opening of bank account. They envision a future where Aadhaar forms the core of a digital identity that could eventually include every Indian's health records, credit scores, e-signatures, criminal backgrounds, welfare entitlements and other data.

"Minimal demographic and biometric data of citizens are collected by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) for Aadhaar enrolment".

It is this provision that allows statutory support to mobile companies, private service providers, banks, payments services to seek an individual's Aadhaar card for identification.

He said the Aadhaar programme violated informational privacy, self-determination and data protection. PAN-Aadhaar linking deadline is March 31, 2019.

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Apart from privacy concerns, India's poor, often denied access to social welfare schemes unless they can furnish an Aadhaar ID, are particularly vulnerable. It is clear that Aadhaar would be a biometric identity proof only and that too not mandatory for private entities to use and so not compulsory for citizens to furnish.

The Supreme Court is likely to pronounce its verdict on a batch of petitions seeking that a seven-judge bench reconsiders the court's 2006 judgement which had put conditions for granting quota benefits in job promotions for SC/ST employees.

Aadhaar, the 12-digit biometric identity number, has been issued to more than 1.22 billion residents of India.

In 2016, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh moved the court where he challenged the passage of Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 as a Money Bill in May 2016.

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