Today the five-judge Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court delivered its verdict on a clutch of petitions challenging Aadhaar, which has enrolled over 118 crore people thus far.
Speaking for three of the five judges, including Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justice AK Sikri endorsed the Aadhaar project and said the enrolment was valid.
He also dismissed the possibility of mass profiling of individual citizens, since, he said, there were inbuilt safeguards against it.
“Minimal demographic and biometric data of citizens are collected by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) for Aadhaar enrolment. Aadhaar number given to a person is unique and can’t go to any other person. Aadhaar identification is unparalleled,” said Justice Sikri.
Nonetheless, a person’s individual rights could not be denied on the ground of lack of the unique ID, the majority decision said.
Here are the key points –
1) The Court struck down Sections 33(2) and 57 of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Service) Act, 2016.
Under Section 33(2), the government is authorised to disclose a person’s Aadhaar-related information in the interest of national security on the direction of an officer not below the rank of Joint Secretary working under Government of India.
The court says that this is arbitrary and requires a judicial warrant.
In other words, the government cannot disclose anyone’s Aadhaar information even under the guise of national security without a warrant.
Section 57, meanwhile, permits private entities to avail Aadhaar data, which the court disallowed.
So as per the court’s verdict, private entities cannot use Aadhaar information to authenticate the identity of the person.
2) The court said it is mandatory to quote Aadhaar ID for income tax filing and for making an application for the allotment of Permanent Account Number (PAN), thus upholding Section 139AA of the Income Tax Act.
3) Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory for the opening of a bank account or acquiring mobile connections.
4) Schools cannot make submission of Aadhaar details mandatory for admission of the child. Aadhaar isn’t necessary to appear in CBSE, UGC and NEET exams. A child cannot be denied any schemes if they are not able to share their Aadhaar number.
5) Consent of parents necessary to enrol children in Aadhaar. Once the children attain majority, they must have the option to opt out.
6) Very importantly, the court struck down Section 47 of the Aadhaar Act, according to which only the UIDAI can file criminal complaints for data breach. What this effectively meant was that only the UIDAI could decide what was a serious breach and when a complaint should be filed.
Now individual citizens can file complaints with the UIDAI.
7) The three judges with the majority opinion also confirmed that the government did nothing wrong by introducing Aadhaar Act as a money bill, thus allowing it to bypass the Rajya Sabha, where it’s in a minority.
8) Justice Chandarchud, however, dissented with the majority opinion, arguing against the very constitutionality of the Aadhaar Act. “Passing of bill as Money bill when it does not qualify as a Money bill is a fraud on Constitution and violates its basic structure,” Chandrachud said.
9) The Court asked the government to bring in a robust data protection law at the earliest.
10) Aadhaar authentication data cannot be stored for more than six months. The court has struck down the provision in Aadhaar Act which provides for retention of data for a period of 5 years.
(Edited By Vinayak Hegde)