An Aadhaar biometric identity card, issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

Government Defends Move To Make Aadhaar Mandatory For Mobile SIM Cards

The government today defended its decision to order mandatory linkage of Aadhaar with mobile SIM cards, as it concluded its arguments in the matter in the Supreme Court.

The order to link mobile SIM cards followed the apex court’s order in the Lokniti Foundation’s petition seeking verification of every user, Attorney General of India KK Venugopal informed the court. However, linking the two is no longer mandatory following the interim order of the Supreme Court in the Aadhaar matter, he added.

Venugopal, appearing on behalf of the Centre, was responding to the apex court’s criticism of the government for making Aadhaar-mobile linkage compulsory.

Also read: Aadhaar Doesn’t Pose Any Privacy Issue, Says Bill Gates

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra is hearing the matter that will decide the fate of the world’s largest biometric identification programme. Petitioners have highlighted concerns about possible citizen profiling, state control, denial of public services and hasty passage of the Aadhaar Act. One of the contentious issues was the government’s order to link Aadhaar with services such as bank accounts and mobile SIM cards.

The government had earlier cited the Lokniti case in its decision to make Aadhaar-mobile linkage compulsory. But the apex court, in an earlier observation, said it did not order any such linkage and questioned the government’s decision to do so. “How can you [Department of Telecommunication] impose condition on service recipients for seeding Aadhaar with mobile phones,” the bench had said, adding that licence agreements were between the government and the service providers.

Arguing on behalf of the Centre, Venugopal said today, “The linking of Aadhaar is for security reasons as it will rule out forgery, fraud and address issues of national security.”

Also read: Why Telecom Firms Will Keep Asking Users To Link Mobile SIM Cards To Aadhaar

Petitioners’ Arguments

Senior Advocate Shyam Divan said Aadhaar-issuing body UIDAI’s replies to specific questions posed by petitioners make it clear that Aadhaar is a “self declaratory identification system”. Divan was arguing on behalf of petitioners as they started their rejoinders today.

The UIDAI does not verify the documents at the time of enrollment. No one knows the underlying documents, and UIDAI does not take any responsibility for ensuring correct identity. It is all self declaration and self declaration.
Shyam Divan, Senior Advocate

On the aspect of surveillance, Divan said experts on both sides agree that the Aadhaar architecture is capable of surveillance. The Constitution does not allow for such an Act, and, therefore, the programme must be stuck down, he added.

The arguments in the case will continue tomorrow.

Also read: Aadhaar Hearing: The Government’s Arguments So Far