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Updated: September 30, 2013 00:08 IST

‘Aadhaar infringes on our fundamental right to privacy’

Deepa Kurup
Comment (33)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
K.S. Puttaswamy
The Hindu
K.S. Puttaswamy

Former Justice K.S. Puttaswamy, who went to court against the linking of state benefits to the UID scheme, says much money has been wasted on the ‘dangerous’ project

The Supreme Court order restraining the linking of services and benefits to the 12-digit Aadhaar number has placed in doubt ambitious plans by the Centre and several State governments to make the ‘voluntary’ Aadhaar scheme mandatory for access to services and subsidies. The order was passed on a writ petition by retired justice of the Karnataka High Court K.S. Puttaswamy, along with two other petitions referred from the Bombay and Madras High Courts. In an interview with The Hindu in Bangalore a day after the Supreme Court verdict, the 88-year-old judge-turned-litigant said this was the first time in his legal career, spanning five decades, that he felt the need to petition the courts. Excerpts:

Why did you choose to move the courts on this issue?

The way the government has gone about implementing this project is odd and illegal. In 2011 [over a year after Aadhaar enrolments commenced in the country] the Parliament’s Standing Committee on Finance rejected the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010, on several grounds. Yet, the government did not attempt to modify the Bill and bring it back for parliamentary approval. It is not constitutional to simply proceed using an executive order to implement a scheme that has been rejected in this fashion.

What is your fundamental opposition to this project?

Apart from the fact that it does not have Parliament’s approval, the project infringes upon our right to privacy, which flows from Article 21 that deals with the fundamental right to life. We are required to part with biometric information, iris and fingerprints, and there is no system to ensure that all this data will be safe and not misused.

My other concern, and I believe this is critical, is that it is easy for anyone to get an Aadhaar number. The enrolment centres are run by private operators so anyone can walk in and get one. This means that [undocumented] immigrants can get one too and that’s a clear security threat. Part of the political will for this project stems from this motivation because obviously they [undocumented] immigrants are also a vote bank for some

Many critics of Aadhaar (even those whose petitions are being heard with yours) have focussed on other aspects such as the dangers of making this ‘voluntary’ scheme a mandatory one for access to crucial services and welfare.

Yes, that is also a point. Why must I get an Aadhaar when I already have a ration card? Even at the recent hearing it has been reported that the government submitted in court that the scheme is voluntary. But everyone knows that today you cannot get your LPG subsidy in Tumkur, and other districts, without this number. So, the right hand says it is voluntary and the left says it is mandatory — then it is a plain lie. They’re still taking inconsistent stands and look who is suffering — citizens

The government submits that over Rs.50,000 crore has been spent on the project. It is seeking a review of the SC order. Is it too late to turn back now on this scheme?

No. It is not. That so much has been squandered without analysing the benefits or dangers of this scheme shows a disregard for public money. I think they didn’t think this through. In fact, there were voices even within the government that were opposed to it. My understanding is that the Supreme Court is unlikely to allow their review petition.

We’ll have to wait and see.

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Passport and voting card should be the identity for all the citizens. The authorities should brainstorm to include much needed informations in these two cards and let the govt invest on these, instead of introducing something new. It is shame that we have wasted 50,000 crore for this project

from:  Mohd. Ayoob
Posted on: Oct 2, 2013 at 16:09 IST

Every change should be gradual and not sudden. And should be accepted
otherwise, if not, you'll become obsolete. Rejecting the basis of
using Aadhaar number for distributing benefits/services is just like
rejecting the distribution of benefits for those using Ration cards.
If no one has any issue in using the Ration Cards, then why is there
any issue in using Aadhaar? So one must look Aadhaar as a way forward
for a single Number that can be used anywhere in India for
multipurpose plus be used as a proof in government's records of
existence, just on lines of Social Security Number of US.

from:  Siddhanth Sharma
Posted on: Oct 2, 2013 at 09:37 IST

Which companies were favored for the Adhaar Card contracts? In light of the several ongoing scams such as Commonwealth Games, 2G Licenses, CoalScam, Telangana, Satyam SwindleByYSR etc., it would be yet another one to add to this growing list. It reminds one of the Voter-ID Card scheme from the 90s, which was also not thought through and abandoned, but only after some contracting companies and politicians became very rich. The saga is continuing. The journalist would be doing all a favor by pointing out whether anyone every went to prison, or whether this was like an unwritten ordinance - where political parties scratch each others' back and benefit.

from:  Gurucharan Singh
Posted on: Oct 2, 2013 at 08:13 IST

Are my fellow readers so naive?
We have politicians, police, babus and private operators (ICICI fraud,
Reliance Gas) corrupt to the core. Are you trying to tell me that all
the people safeguarding my biometric identity are clean and will never
sell this identity for a bribe? I am sorry but I do not live in such
imaginary la-la land.

from:  Rahul Garg
Posted on: Oct 2, 2013 at 07:41 IST

Voting Card & Passport must be the first and the last Identity Card of
the Indian Citizen. All other ID Cards must be scrapped. Voting Card or
Passport must be use for Direct Benefit Transfer and for all other
works. 2 Identity Cards is enough. Ration Card, Aadhar Card, etc. must
be scrap. Voting Card & Passport carries photo & residence address.
These 2 are genuine Identity Cards for any work in India.

from:  Aam Aadmi
Posted on: Oct 1, 2013 at 19:37 IST

About the comment from 'Hiren' : The issue here is not whether Mr.Puttaswamy knows about Tech or not. I am a Techie with 26+ years experience and I very much see a good probability that one can be taken for task by vested interests if all his accounts and benefits are linked by a single number (see film : The Net). He is absolutely correct in that safeguards are not in place. Last month when I went for this enrollment, I saw this being done without adequate safeguards.

Further assuming that the safety measure are in place, it is an obligation of the government under a democratic setup, to clarify the issues brought up by elected members of the parliament before something is mandated as law. Did the current government do it ? Please search internet on other opinions against Adhaar. The government has done a poor job of alleviating public concerns.

from:  Thiyagu
Posted on: Oct 1, 2013 at 14:02 IST

It is not possible to misuse the UID enrollment data as it is
encrypted. There has been no case of misuse of Aadhaar as it will be
detected in online authentication. So the claims of misuse are absurd.
There may have been minor omissions but logically Aadhaar is the most
reliable identity system. An Aadhaar number is unique. The address
associated with any Aadhaar number is verifiable online and at a time
there will be only one address associated with an individual as a
resident can have only one Aadhaar. No other identity system in India
is verifiable online. It may be possible to create duplicate
passports, license, ration cards, birth certificates etc but only one
UID. Aadhaar is relatively the most reliable identity which anyone
can possess
Nation is waking up to accuracy and transparency… there is bound to be
some opposition from the people who benefited from impersonation.

from:  Korath V Mathew
Posted on: Oct 1, 2013 at 11:11 IST

Mr. Puttaswamy has no clue about technology. India is so far behind in technology adoption. Things move very slowly in politics, bureaucrats, municipality. Project with poor implementation, quality control. And Many unknown challenges from non-profit agenda, bank union, government owned PSUs and many more. We are in a verge of economic collapse with Rs touching 70+ and so many unemployed, unskilled people somewhere in the range of 600million plus. We do not imbibe social values, charity, philanthropy in school that teaches people that it's important to be more human than just cast and color. We really need a miracle in India. Thanks to IT that we have exposure to global best practices and few Indian companies working hard against inefficient policies. With so many paradox, it is better we have a person who challenges socialist views and shows what a Leftist view should be, one with less government and more about governance.

from:  Hiren
Posted on: Oct 1, 2013 at 05:09 IST

The contracts are given to multi-national companies (mostly pets and friends with
Nilekani, who is the main agent behind all this), with the assumption that 'lndian
laws' will prevent any wrong-doing. Given the track record of Indian bureaucracy
(remember Coal scam papers, Land records, Ration cards, stamp paper scams),
there is no guarantee that this information will not be 'made available' to
corporations for money or other enticements.
No such cards exist in US, UK, Australia or other countries (despite there being
such proposals) for precisely the same reasons: privacy and unreliability of

from:  yog
Posted on: Sep 30, 2013 at 22:55 IST

Good points have been raised. Oversight of government is lacking.

from:  john
Posted on: Sep 30, 2013 at 22:04 IST

Some people have a problem with this Aadhaar card and that is essentially because if it becomes mandatory for all bank accounts, land and cash transactions, they will never be able to hoard black money. One person cannot have two Aadhaar cards because it has biometric info. Most of the people do not have any objection as can be seen from the rush at Aadhaar centres. As far as misuse is concerned, even digital photographs can be misused and as far as privacy is concerned the municipal authorities are empowered to check your water coolers for stagnant water at their convenience. How do we stop them.

from:  Bhupender
Posted on: Sep 30, 2013 at 21:25 IST

Some people want to be on the lime light and rake up such issues. It is
raised as if everything is robbed off from a person once you give
information for a Aadhaar card. As has been pointed out by a reader, we
have 'n' number of things which intrude into our personal life. The
author of Da Vincy Code raked up an issue connected with Jesus to get a
a worldwide notoriety. This gentleman is playing the 'aadhaar' card. We
have to tolerate such thiings as the Indian Constitution has given them

from:  D. Darwin Albert Raj
Posted on: Sep 30, 2013 at 20:38 IST

right from day one i have been pointing out that aadhar card in a
country like ours is a waste and is impossible one to provide everyone
when we have not been able to do with our ordinary ration card and
even in census we cannot accomplish fully in remote villages. to
compare US etc. with India is utter nonsense and it is unfortunate
that even educated ones like P.chidambaram is unable to think properly
on this issue when we have so much other things. it is also
unfortunate that for everything the apex court has to step in. will
the Govt. be able to provide facts about the beneficiaries other than
Mr. Nilekani in aadhar!!!!!!!

from:  n ramaswami
Posted on: Sep 30, 2013 at 19:05 IST

It will be for the benefit of the reader's of Hindu if Hon.Pattuswamy
can list a few things that he had done to uphold the individuals rights
during his tenure as a Judge. Or is it only now that he is talking about
such things. I would like to remind him that Democracy gives you a right
to demand for your rights but at the same time it begs you to adhere to
your responsibilities too.

from:  shankar
Posted on: Sep 30, 2013 at 18:36 IST

There is a news hitting the head lines that congress party
is seriously considering to contest the bangalore south
parliamentary seat by giving ticket to nandan nilankany, the
c e o of aadhaar card. If that happens, what will be the
fate of this highly technology oriented, totally system
driven mega project??? Has he identified an equally
competent super being as his successor??? This is the
crucial question. And this is the problem with super
specialists. All people centric projects will face the same
threat, if not he, who? Will chidembaram be able to import
someone from the U S, like how he did for RBI, by bringing
in raguram?

from:  ravishankar lakshminarayanan
Posted on: Sep 30, 2013 at 17:34 IST

I feel adhar is a good scheme for regulating the money spent for poor and needy. Why is the petioner not talking about identity card for people to walk to the high courts and other judicial institute. Does it not hurt the freedom ?
Already billions of country money are stolen by few individuals, if this can bring about change we should welcome it. Any new change will be resisted, instead of giving ideas on how to make it successful people only give negative feedback.

Already seen ration card does not work...

from:  rajesh kumar n
Posted on: Sep 30, 2013 at 16:18 IST

Its a great idea to have the Adhaar system in place. Now the government should
maintain a highly secured data management system to prevent the mis-use of these
data. This will help us in various ways including planning and development. It is a big
step but a necessary one towards a better connected India.

from:  Vidya
Posted on: Sep 30, 2013 at 15:30 IST

The Government of India should make sure that Aadhar project is safe and
secure in all aspects so that it should be implemented again. Because
GoI has already invested a lot of money in it. This should not go waste.
This project should be completed at any cost by satisfying all demands
from public as well as petitioner. Hope it get started again without any

from:  Chand
Posted on: Sep 30, 2013 at 14:45 IST

Some people have commented that advanced nations like USA and UK use such ID
cards for distributing benefits. That is a complete NONSENSE. Citizens of these
countries are even more worried about their privacy. They don't want the government
to keep an eye on their daily activities.

Also if this data is stolen someone else could be taking subsidy on your name and
you wouldn't even know it!! We all know how careless the government is with
handling such data. People be wary!!

from:  Ashok
Posted on: Sep 30, 2013 at 13:02 IST

I fully endorse the views of the petitioner. P.Chidambaram behaves in such an autocratic manner that at times we do not know whether we are living in a democracy or autocratic place. On top of it the entire government backs him. Thank god the Supreme Court is yet to be fully polluted-We Indians have some reason to cheer. Also thanks to some people like Mr.Pattuswamy who have held high offices and are straightforward.

from:  visweshwaran
Posted on: Sep 30, 2013 at 12:14 IST

I don't think by using Aadhar, the privacy will be compromised. In our day to day life we pass through "n" no. of CCTV and other security systems, all online activities are logged. If Aadhar card is properly used, it is possible to direct the Govt. subsidies to intended recipients. In India many of the Govt.subsidies don't reach the under privileged due to corruption at grass roots level which can be easily overcome using Aadhar. Developed countries like US and Canada use similar cards to keep track oof Govt. subsidies. What we need is streamlining the usage of Aadhar card, not the complete removal of it.

from:  Senthilkumar K B
Posted on: Sep 30, 2013 at 11:54 IST

Aadhar promises to be a singe card of identity cum many other things..
It is a government scheme and people have to faith in it..we provide many personal details to sites like facebook and twitter which are hosted abroad and havae the risk of privacy compromised but cant we believe our own government to keep data secure ?

We can always deabte and fine tune a system but scrapping it after spending this much effort and money will put the country back by a decade ..

from:  ramesh
Posted on: Sep 30, 2013 at 11:08 IST

The fact that the government has spent thousand of crores cannot be
an argument in favour of any scheme. The latter needs to be judged
in terms of its intrinsic merits rather than how much money has been
spent (or misspent) on it. Justice Puttaswamy is right. The aadhaar
is based on a violation of our fundamental rights in more ways than
one. The government has behaved stupidly at best and in a sinister
manner at the worst.

from:  Santanu Chacraverti
Posted on: Sep 30, 2013 at 09:58 IST

Very true. But then, what about CCTV camers fixed at everywhere ---rail stations, inside metro trains, bus stops, airports, traffic signals, parks and private and public sector offices? Don't they infringe upon the privacy of our citizens?

from:  V. Nathan
Posted on: Sep 30, 2013 at 09:40 IST

I value my privacy as much any other person does. Yet, I am for Aadhar because it is more scientific, and "culture"-free, and is capable of being linked up with many things, including disbursal of subsidies, hospitalization, and so on. We submit ourselves to similar - or greater - "invasions" of privacy when applying for visa in some countries or passing the Immigration. "Fundamental rights" are in any case not absolute and have some limits set by the Constitution or specific law. Ration cards are notorious for being "manageable" and passports are beyond the reach of many people. Even for PAN cards are being misused. What should one do about questions asked during the Census every ten years? It is unfortunate that the Parliamentary Committee was not able to come to any consensus about the proposed NANI Bill. The earlier Aadhar receives legislative approval. the better.

from:  Prosenjit Das Gupta
Posted on: Sep 30, 2013 at 08:43 IST

many thanks to respected retired justice of the Karnataka High Court K.S. Puttaswamy. What he has said is true. Political parties do not care for about the security of the citizens, they only care for votes

from:  Umesh Shanakrpelli
Posted on: Sep 30, 2013 at 08:17 IST

The retired Judge is absolutely right. Honest citizens, tax payers,
poor people who earn their daily bread by the sweat of their brows
with not even a roof to sleep under, all are forced to run from pillar
to post to please some techno-billionaire on an ill-conceived and
pathetically administered and outsourced scheme. If someone advances
an argument that you must trade-ff little privacy for convenience, it
is like asking one to sell one's eye sight to buy a painting! Supreme
Court has timely and rightly stopped this. Where is Mr. Rahul Gandhi
and why has he not called this a nonsense?

from:  Ravi
Posted on: Sep 30, 2013 at 06:35 IST

It has become usual for the Government to proceed far on executive
powers and wasting public money. On the other hand they talk much about
Parliament's supremacy. This is only to curb judiciary from stopping
them from their whims and fancies done to stay in power.

Limits must be drawn on executive powers. The recent debacle on
ordinance on convicts and the Government's "U" turn.

from:  Parthasarathy
Posted on: Sep 30, 2013 at 06:23 IST

the photo is Aadhaar card is not very clear as told by shop keeper when
I wanted to buy a sim card for my cell phone. Also the date of birth is
not given in the card which is very important for any reference. Tamil
nadu Government's insisting on census records for getting Aadhaar card
is another peculiar matter. When Aadhaar cards have been issued alredy
to several persons, it is still doubtful whether they are valid or not.

from:  S.Kalyanasundaram
Posted on: Sep 30, 2013 at 06:10 IST

In my opinion Aadhar card is not a necessity when one has ration card,
PAN card or any identification I welcome if this Aadhar number is
removed permanently to safeguard the fundamental right of a citizen.

from:  K.V.Rangaswamy
Posted on: Sep 30, 2013 at 05:34 IST

50,000 Crore money.......!!! I will be distressed if I hear Adhaar Scam
news in future. Yes, I agree. Anyone can walk and get by changing their
details such like dob, name etc.

Ohhh.. vote bank or scam or what??

Eye-opening article. Thanks to Hindu and Mr. Puttasamy Sir.

from:  Mister Suresh
Posted on: Sep 30, 2013 at 03:07 IST

Really surprised at raising the privacy issues in Aadhar Card.Our
identity can not be privacy issue.The data only defines us and required
for our recognition.
If we have to channelize our distribution of benefits, ensure that
there is no misappropriation, ensure accountability for tax compliance
and other liabilities compliance, head count, identity of the citizen
in the records is a must.
Privacy can be for ones believes, personal choices but not for identity
in public domain.

Posted on: Sep 30, 2013 at 03:03 IST

If Aadhaar could be made a foolproof one to identify Indian citizens and
to extend all government subsidies bearing the Aadhaar number, this
Aadhaar scheme may be placed to parliament to pass it with necessary
amendments even in the constitution of India. Simply telling that there
are dozens of proofs available and nothing to be foolproof is no good.

from:  R.Ganesan.
Posted on: Sep 30, 2013 at 01:55 IST
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