SC trims centre adventurism on Aadhaar, now only needed for welfare schemes, PAN, IT Returns

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Live: Among the concerns raised by petitioners that the unique identity number could become a tool for mass surveillance by the state, the five-judge Constitution Bench of Supreme Court has delivered its verdict on a clutch of petitions challenging on various grounds. The judges primarily focused on the questions such as whether the government has the right to demand that every person authenticate his or her identity through biometric or demographic information with just one proof — a unique identification number? Or do Indian citizens have the right to identify themselves using several other documents issued to them by the government?

The court also explained if the Aadhaar project an attack on a person’s privacy, now a fundamental right after a Supreme Court ruling that arose out of the Aadhaar case itself. Also, Is the Aadhaar Act valid, given that the way it was passed has been challenged  and Justice AM Khanwilkar concur with Justice AK Sikri who authored the judgment. Other two judges deliver separate judgment.

According to judgment, now Aadhaar is only needed when a person withdraws benefit from the consolidated fund of India. No private firms including banks would be able to use Aadhaar. School, College, UGC and CBSE among others would not be able to ask for Aadhaar.

Aadhaar is the world’s largest biometric and identity database with 122.56 crore numbers issued to Indian citizens or persons living in India for more than 180 days; these have been used for 2,322 crore authentications. In 2012, a retired judge of the Karnataka High Court, Justice K S Puttaswamy, challenged Aadhaar.

The Centre had defended Aadhaar on several grounds – the biggest being that it ensured proper distribution of benefits to millions and prevented siphoning of funds. Aadhaar data, government and Aadhaar authority UIADI contended, is safe and cannot be breached.
Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi had come out in defence of Aadhaar, saying it represented the march of technology and those opposing it “have lagged behind in technology – either they cannot understand or are purposely spreading lies”.

When the argument that Aadhaar is an attack on a person’s privacy was brought up in the Supreme Court in 2016, the government argued that it was not clear whether the Constitution granted privacy as a fundamental right. A Constitution Bench ruled after about a year that privacy is indeed a fundamental right guaranteed and protected by the Constitution.

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