Constitution bench begins hearing on Aadhaar validity
20 January, 2018, 05:11
The five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has begun hearing the matter related to the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Act on Wednesday. "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.
Giving out background of Aadhaar since 2009, senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing as lead counsel, contended it was "an electronic leash" imposed on the citizens by which government could completely destroy an individual by "switching off" the 12-digit unique identifier number. However, when they apply for duplicate cards, the Aadhaar authentification process fails to acknowledge them, thus denying them various benefits as the government has made it mandatory to link Aadhaar cards with bank accounts, mobile phones and other services, Divan said. "If the Aadhaar programme is allowed to continue unimpeded, it will hollow out the Constitution".
He said the government employed marketing stratagems and smoke and mirrors to roll out the "little understood" programme which now seeks to tether Indian residents to an electronic leash. He argued that "This leash is connected to a central database that is created to track transactions across the life of the citizen". At its core, Aadhaar alters the relationship between the citizen and the State. "Over time, the profiling enables the State to stifle dissent and influence political decision making".
The Aadhaar scheme contradicts the role of the state as the custodian of the citizens' fundamental right of privacy.
As Justice Chandrachud asked if the Centre says that it will use the data for the limited purposes for which it was collected, would it satisfy the petitioners, Divan said, "Certainly not".
The bench will also address the larger question of whether Aadhaar infringes on the right to privacy.
But information accessed under the Right to Information, he said, showed that out of a total of 93 crore Aadhaar holders, only 219,096 Aadhaars were generated using the introducer system - this, he said, works out to only 0.0003 per cent. The Chief Justice, in a similar vein, stated that "Article 21 confers fundamental rights which include the right to education".
Four senior-most judges - Justices J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur and Kurian Joseph - had in an unprecedented presser on January 12 raised a litany of problems, including assigning of cases in SC, and said there were certain issues afflicting the country's highest court.
The counsel argued that the Aadhaar programme deprives aggrie-ved individuals of the knowledge required to exercise control over their information.
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