Aadhaar ordinance: SC asks Centre, UIDAI to respond to writ petition

Petitioners say ordinance will create a “surveillance State” and enable database to be exploited by private players for commercial gain

July 05, 2019 12:13 pm | Updated 12:14 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

Supreme Court of India

Supreme Court of India

A Supreme Court Bench led by Justice S.A. Bobde ordered the Centre and the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the nodal Aadhaar authority, to respond to a writ petition challenging the new Aadhaar Ordinance and Regulations passed by the Lok Sabha, saying they will create a “surveillance State” and enable the database to be exploited by private players for commercial gain.

The Bench issued notice on the petition filed by activists S.G. Vombatkere and Bezwada Wilson, who said that the UIDAI intended to use the ordinance to commercialise and gain financially through the large-scale collection of the personal data of citizens and use of Aadhaar database by private entities.

“People’s data collected for Aadhaar database is their private property and permitting this to be commercially explored is a violation of their fundamental right to dignity,” the petition, represented by senior advocate Shyam Divan and advocate Vipin Nair, submitted.

The petition said the Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Ordinance of 2019 and Aadhaar (Pricing of Aadhaar Authentication Services) Regulations, 2019 “create a back door to permit private parties to access the Aadhaar eco-system”.

It said a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in September last year had specifically struck down provisions, including Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act 2016 which led to commercial exploitation of the database.

The court had found that the architecture and design of the Aadhaar project did not enable mass surveillance of persons under the Aadhaar Act.

The petition said the Ordinance allowed the Aadhaar database to be linked to existing databases under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and the Indian Telegraph Act. This posed a grave threat to national security.

‘Trojan horse’

The “unverified” Aadhaar database was a “Trojan horse which will over time infect, undermine and debase the integrity of the two databases”, the petition submitted.

The purported utilisation of the database for e-KYC and verification of identities for use services was “manifestly arbitrary and a danger to national security”.

The ordinance created a new system of “office verification” that attempted to bypass the government authorities. “However, this method exacerbates the problems caused by the Aadhaar project, as such a method creates unprecedented opportunities for unauthorised parties to save and replicate Aadhaar-related personal data,” the petition submitted.

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