A Supreme Court bench of five-judge started the final hearings on about 28 petitions that challenged the validity and existence of biometric identity Aadhaar and its linking with a series of government services including banking and income tax.
Incepted in 2009, the Aadhaar biometric identification was meant to become a standalone identity proof for citizens of India. However, eventually, the Aadhaar has been introduced in multiple number of services and schemes provided by the government. At present, Aadhaar linking and verification is required for bank accounts, filing income tax returns, verification of SIM cards and what not. About 28 petitions were filed by a number of lawmakers who challenged the validity of this national identification scheme allegedly accusing it of violating privacy of citizens of India.
The final hearing on Aadhaar begun yesterday, when a bench led by CJI Dipak Misra and justices AM Khanwilkar, AK Sikri, DY Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan conducted the hearings. Senior lawyer Shyam Divan is the main prosecutor speaking on behalf of petitioners and claimed that Aadhaar database is a “giant electronic mesh that enabled the state to profile its citizens, track their movements and affect their social behaviour”. Divan also said that the Aadhaar card will eventually hollow the Constitution and will become a country that supports surveillance of its citizens. Divan further said, “A People’s Constitution will transform into a State Constitution and will cause civil death of any citizen”.
On the other hand, the Supreme Court bench has counter questioned that the state is responsible to ensure that various services and schemes provided by it are reaching to the citizens. To ensure that, the government needs to keep track of what services and schemes any citizen is utilising. However, the petitioners were firm about their point that introduction of Aadhaar card infringes citizen’s right to privacy and it is more of an electronic leash that chains down the freedom and privacy of citizens of India and that there is no safeguard guarantee that sensitive personal data like fingerprints and iris are safe in UIDAI database. So it is now up to the Supreme Court to decide whether or not Aadhaar infringes the fundamental right of privacy, or not and it will decide the fate of Aadhaar.