Supreme court upholds the aadhaar scheme

The Supreme court on 26th September 2018 upheld the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar scheme albeit with certain riders.  A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra declared the Aadhar card to be a constitutionally valid scheme. Affirming the constitutionality of the 12-digit number, CJI Dipak Misra said it ‘involved parting with minimal information’ to fulfill ‘larger public interest’. The Supreme court struck down Section 57 of the Aadhaar act on Wednesday. The court’s judgment means that private bodies like telecom companies, e-commerce firms, private banks, and other such firms cannot ask for biometric and other such data of the Aadhaar scheme from consumers for their services. The apex court also ruled that Aadhaar authentication data cannot be stored for more than 6 months. It also ruled that Aadhar card details are not required for school admissions, mobile phone connections and for opening bank accounts. “It is better to be unique than to be best”, said Justice AK Sikri. “The arguments of petitioners are very different. There is a fundamental difference between Aadhar card and identity.  Once the biometric information is stored, it remains in the system”, he further explained.

This came after a number of pleas challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhaar card. The petitioners claimed that the Aadhaar scheme in unconstitutional and it violates the fundamental right to privacy and personal bodily autonomy. The hearing went on for nearly four months before reaching the iconic verdict. The challenges against Aadhaar begun from 2016 and many other allegations followed. The petitioners said that the Aadhaar scheme could lead to a surveillance state by tracking people or profiling their personal data.  At least 31 petitions were filed against the Aadhaar scheme including one by former High Court judge, KS Puttaswamy.

Cybersecurity expert and Indian Infosec CEO Jatin Jain lauded the verdict. “I am happy that Aadhaar act has been upheld and private sector entities have been barred from collecting any data from the Aadhaar cards”, Jain said. The Supreme court is yet to form a set of rules and regulations over the judgment. On data protection, an expert panel, headed by Justice B.N. Srikrishna is in the process of holding public consultations and its draft report titled The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018.

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