Aadhaar is constitutionally fair and gives “dignity to the marginalised”, ruled the Supreme Court on Wednesday, delivering its verdict on a batch of petitions against the unique identification project.
But the top court ruled that the order to link all mobile phone connections to Aadhaar was ‘unconstitutional’. The court also held that there was no need to link bank accounts with the unique identification number. (Live updates)
“There is a legitimate goal and requirement to have the Aadhaar law”, said a five-judge bench comprising the court’s senior-must judges, who had in marathon hearings spread across four months heard over 30 petitions against the Aadhaar Act and the Centre’s defence of the controversial law.
“It’s better to be unique than be best--it’s the central message of Aadhaar,” said Justice Arjan Kumar Sikri of the bench which observed the identity project had strict regulations to collect citizens’ biometric data and has a sufficient defence mechanism, said the court.
The main thrust of the case brought by petitioners was that Aadhaar encroached on the privacy of citizens because it entailed collection of fingerprints, iris scans and other details of citizens with/without their consent.
The government has rejected criticism of Aadhaar, the 12-digit Unique Identification Number that’s now compulsory for linking of bank accounts, mobile phone numbers, and filing income tax returns, saying it ensures misuses of social welfare benefits and counters black money and money laundering. Aadhaar data, government is safe and cannot be breached, the government and Aadhaar Aadhaar UIDAI have said.
The Supreme Court in August 2017 ruled individual privacy is a “guaranteed fundamental right” in the Constitution, giving hope to critics who contend that Aadhaar helps government spy on people by “tethering every resident of India to an electronic leash.”
The Supreme Court in March 2018 expressed concern over the potential misuse of Aadhaar authentication data, commenting after a four-hour PowerPoint presentation by the UIDAI chairman.
In April 2108, the court questioned the Department of Telecommunications for using an ostensible court directive as an excuse to order the linking of mobile phone numbers to Aadhaar unique identity numbers.
However, the court during the hearings had also observed that the government could be correct in using Aadhaar to increase the efficiency of its welfare schemes.