The Supreme Court on September 26 upheld the constitutional validity of Aadhaar in a 4:1 majority judgement. Justice Sikri read out the majority judgement on behalf of the CJI Dipak Misra and Justice Khanwilkar upholding the constitutional validity of Aadhaar but struck down several provisions that are violative of the constitution.
In a separate judgement, Justice DY Chandrachud, who wrote the historic verdict that held the Right To Privacy was a fundamental right, dissented with the majority view and declared the Aadhaar Act unconstitutional. He expressed his concerns over the exclusion of people due glitches in biometric authentication, misuse of data by corporates and state, and linking welfare schemes with the Aadhaar.
“Constitutional guarantees cannot be left to risks posed by technological advancements,” observed justice Chandrachud.
He further came down heavily on the government for introducing Aadhaar as a money bill. “Bypassing Rajya Sabha to pass Aadhaar bill as a money bill was a fraud on the Constitution,” he said.
Here’s a breakdown of the judgement:
Right to dignity crucial: Justice Sikri noted that Aadhaar can’t be dismantled as it has benefitted the marginalised segment of the society. “Aadhaar fails only 0.2% But dismantling Aadhaar now would mean disturbing 99% of the population enrolled. It is like throwing the baby out with the bath water,” said justice Sikri.
No scope for data breach in Aadhaar: The majority judgement put an end to the concern over Aadhaar data breach as the court noted that Aadhaar is a unique identification and it cannot be duplicated. Justice Sikri pointed out, “Aadhaar authentication process is not exposed to the internet world. Regulations are strictly followed. There is a sufficient defence mechanism. There is an oversight by technology… no information on the nature of the transaction is obtained.”
The Apex court noted the importance of data protection and stated that government is already working to bring a law in this regard. It also capped the duration for keeping the data and ruled that authentication of records not to be kept for more than six months.
Aadhaar does not violate Right to Privacy: SC upheld the Sections 7 and 8 of the Aadhaar Act stating that they do not violate the fundamental right to privacy. “It is better to be unique than to be best,” noted justice Sikri. Justice Bhushan also supported Sikri’s observation and said, “The state has given sufficient reasons to uphold Sec 7 of Aadhaar Act which deals with grant of subsidies, welfare benefits.”
Aadhaar data cannot be disclosed for national security: The bench struck down Section 33(2) which allows identity and authentication data to be disclosed in the interest of national security on the direction of an officer not below the rank of Joint Secretary to the Government of India.
No Aadhaar for illegal immigrants: Under Section 2(B), the Supreme Court asked the government to take measures to ensure that illegal immigrants do not get Aadhaar card.
Individuals can file complaint against data theft/misuse: The apex court scrapped Section 47 of the Aadhaar Act as well. Earlier, under this section, the court could take cognisance of complaints filed by UIDAI authority and not the individuals. However, the court scrapped this provision and empowered the citizens to file a complaint if they feel their data has been stolen or misused.
Aadhaar mandatory for availing government benefits under the CFI: The apex court ruled that Aadhaar card would be mandatory to avail facilities of the welfare schemes and government subsidies that come under the consolidated fund of India. This means Aadhaar would be mandatory for ration, LPG subsidy, MGNREGA, among many others.
Aadhaar mandatory for filing ITR: This was upheld by the Supreme Court under Section 139AA of the Aadhaar Act that makes linking of the Aadhaar card with the PAN mandatory for the filing of the Income Tax Return (ITR).
Private companies cannot access Aadhaar data: The bench unanimously struck down Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act.which permitted private companies to seek Aadhaar details from consumers for identification purposes. The apex court noted that allowing private enterprise to use Aadhaar numbers will lead to exploitation of data. It further observed that the section violates the Articles 14 and 21(mention what these mean) of the Constitution.
Aadhaar not needed for mobile connections: SC unanimously observed that Aadhaar cannot be made mandatory for getting mobile connections. It declared the DoT notification, asking to link the Aadhaar details with mobile numbers, unconstitutional.
Linking Aadhaar to banking services not mandatory: The court also struck down the provision that mandates linking Aadhaar with the banking services. Now, people won’t be required to furnish their Aadhaar details for KYC authentication purposes in their banks or digital wallets like Paytm.
Aadhaar not mandatory for school admissions: The court further noted that school admissions do not qualify as a benefit under Section 7. Therefore, Aadhaar cannot be mandated for the same. As a result, CBSE, NEET, UGC cannot ask for Aadhaar. Further, children can opt out of benefits of Aadhaar upon turning into adults.