Constitutional Validity of Aadhaar (Download PDF)

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5- Judge constitutional bench of SC upheld constitutional validity of flagship Aadhaar Scheme. Apex Court in its judgement has listed out host of services for which linking of Aadhaar is not mandatory.

Image of Decoding The Verdict

Image of Decoding The Verdict

Image of Decoding The Verdict

Evolution of Aadhaar

  • Concerns about national security are reason for origin of Aadhaar. In May 2007, govt. released 1st set of such cards.

  • In 2008, it was decided to set up Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) under aegis of Planning Commission. UIDAI was notified in 2009.

  • 1st 12-digit Aadhaar number was released in 2010.

  • Aadhaar is world’s largest biometric & identity database.

Various Concerns

  • Legitimacy: UIDAI was established by executive order & thus did not have legislative base for 7 years. In 2016, govt. enacted Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial & other Subsidies, Benefits & Services) Act, 2016.

  • Money bill issue: Act provided much required legislative sanction to Aadhaar. Govt. called it Money Bill during 2016 Budget Session & passed it in Lok Sabha. Money Bills do not require ratification by Rajya Sabha.

  • Privacy concerns: Govt. argues that Aadhaar would help remove ghost beneficiaries of welfare schemes. However, unique identity number could become instrument for mass surveillance by state. Electronic records & central database are created in such way to track transactions across life of citizen. This will facilitate govt. to profile citizens, track their movements, evaluate their habits, & consequently influence their behaviour.

Features of Majority Verdict

  • Right to privacy: Aadhaar scheme passed triple test laid down in Puttaswamy (Privacy) judgment to check if it invades privacy viz. existence of law – backed by statute i. e. Aadhaar Act, legitimate state interest – to make sure that social benefit schemes reach deserving beneficiaries & test of proportionality.

  • Money Bill: Section 7 is primary provision of Act, validity of Aadhaar Act being enacted as Money Bill is upheld.

  • Security of biometric data: Only registered devices are mandated by UIDAI to conduct biometric-based authentication transactions.

  • PAN: Section 139AA of IT Act makes Aadhaar compulsory for filing IT returns & applying for PAN.

  • Linking of bank accounts: Linking of bank accounts & other financial instruments w/Aadhaar were made compulsory thru 2017 amendment to Prevention of Money Laundering Act Rules, 2005.

  • Aadhaar for education: Statutory bodies such as CBSE & UGC cannot ask students to give their Aadhaar cards for examinations like NEET & JEE.

  • Aadhaar for children: Permission of parents/guardians will be required for enrolment of children under Aadhaar Act. On reaching age of majority, such children shall have choice to exit.

Key Features of Minority Judgment

Surveillance: Architecture of Aadhaar poses threat of possible surveillance activities via Aadhaar database. From verification log, it is possible to identify places of transactions carried out by person over last 5 years (now made 6 months). It was probable to track any person’s location thru database of Aadhaar, even w/o verification log.

Money Bill: Enacting Bill as Money Bill, when it does not eligible for it, violates delicate balance of bicameralism. Bicameralism is part of basic structure of Constitution. Ruling party in power may not have majority in Rajya Sabha. Legislative role of that legislative body cannot be rejected & enacting it as money bill was “a fraud on Constitution. “

Shortfalls: Rejection of benefits coming from any social security rights is violation of human dignity & not permitted under constitutional scheme. Biometric authentication failures under Aadhaar that have resulted in denial of rights & legal entitlements were mentioned in this regard.

Way Forward

  • It is for govt. to concentrate on implementation of this judgement.

  • Govt. has earlier, w/impunity, extended use of Aadhaar in violation of earlier SC stays on such actions.

  • Hence SC should follow up on its verdict.

- Published/Last Modified on: December 27, 2018

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