Published: Fri, January 19, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Aadhaar will kill citizens' civil rights: Petitioner to SC

Aadhaar will kill citizens' civil rights: Petitioner to SC

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, was hearing a number of petitions challenging the validity of the identification system. "A person can not travel or go to school or open a bank account or have an insurance policy or invest in mutual fund if he or she does not have Aadhaar", he said.

Aadhaaar law, which affects "right to privacy" and lacks security for protection of data, should be struck down as unconstitutional, argued senior counsel Shyam Divan in the Supreme Court on Thursday. These include challenges to various administrative orders that make linking of the 12-digit unique identity number to government services mandatory and also statutes such as the Income-Tax that make it compulsory to link the Aadhaar number to the PAN (permanent account number) issued by the income tax department.

Divan argued the government has rolled out a programme that seeks to "tether every resident of India to an electronic leash" and enable the State to profile citizens, which will ultimately help it stifle dissent.

"This leash is connected to a central data base that is created to track transactions across the life of the citizen".

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 top court's privacy judgement.

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On Wednesday, Divan had warned that if the programme is allowed to operate unimpeded, it would hollow out the Constitution.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked Aadhaar challengers if the state can not ask its citizens to cite 12-digit unique identification numbers to ensure that the money being spent on welfare schemes reached to the real beneficiaries. "For instance, there are many schools without students.They (State) may say all we are trying to do is to ensure that money is going where it ought to.If you are depending on social welfare benefits, equally the State has countervailing interests to ensure that they reach the right people". The regressive arguments were made in context of the Aadhaar challenge in court.

The nine-judge bench had not dealt with the validity of Aadhaar cards and had left it to another five-judge bench. "Section 57 of the Act of 2016 could give rise to a surveillance society". "Several state governments have started using the Aadhaar platform to build profiles of residents that is reminiscent of totalitarian regimes", the advocate said.

The Bench rose for the day, hearing to continue tomorrow.

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