Aadhaar Hearing: The Government’s Arguments So Far
The central and certain state governments and the Aadhaar-issuing body UIDAI continued to maintain that the biometric identification is voluntary and does not violate the right to privacy.
Attorney General of India KK Venugopal, Additional Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta, senior advocates Rakesh Dwivedi, Jayant Bhushan, NK Kaul and other lawyers argued on behalf of the government in favour of the Aadhaar programme and the Aadhaar Act, 2016. Petitioners in the matter have completed their arguments, highlighting concerns about possible citizen profiling, state control, denial of public services and hasty passage of the Aadhaar Act.
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. Another Constitutional bench, in a verdict stemming from the Aadhaar matter, had earlier ruled that privacy is a fundamental right.
Here are the key arguments made for Aadhaar by the government and UIDAI’s counsels:
Right To Privacy Not An Absolute Right
- The right to privacy is not absolute. There can be instances when this right can be curtailed and the Aadhaar programme is one such instance.
- The Aadhaar programme satisfies the three conditions when right to privacy can be curtailed as laid down by the nine-judge bench. These include existence of a law, compelling state interest/larger public interest and test of proportionality.
- There must be a balance between protecting right to privacy and ensuring right to a dignified life for all the citizens.
- The Aadhaar programme ensures the right to dignified life for citizens by plugging leakages in distribution of subsidies.
- The right to life is also a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution.
- Each of the subsidies provided under the Aadhaar Act is traceable to Article 21, ensuring a right to a dignified life and therefore it is a constitutionally valid scheme.
Also read: Is Aadhaar Likely To Pass The Privacy Test?
Minimum Invasion Of Privacy In Aadhaar
- Aadhaar does not violate the fundamental right to privacy, the Attorney General of India argued.
- Data collected as part of the scheme is minimum.
- If the top court feels any data should not have been taken, the government will delete that data and stop using it in the Aadhaar programme.
It requires only the bare demographic particulars while eschewing most other demographic particulars. It further requires the bare biometric factors, namely photograph, fingerprints and iris.KK Venugopal, Attorney General of India
Aadhaar-Mobile SIM Card Linkage
- The government till now had said that mobile phone connections were being linked with Aadhaar on the directions of the Supreme Court in the Lokniti Foundation’s petition seeking verification of every user.
- During the hearing, Justice DY Chandrachud said that the Supreme made no such direction in the Lokniti case.
In fact there was no such direction from the Supreme Court, but you took it and used it as a tool to make Aadhaar mandatory for mobile users.Justice DY Chandrachud (PTI Report Citing Court Proceedings)
- The central government maintained there has no violation of any interim orders passed by the top court ever since the challenge to the Aadhaar was first heard.
- It said before the Aadhaar Act was introduced, “obtaining an Aadhaar number or an enrollment number was voluntary, especially because of the interim orders passed by this court”.
UIDAI CEO’s Presentation
- The UIDAI gets minimum information when transactions are carried out using Aadhaar authentication.
- UIDAI does not get to know the purpose and details of those transactions, its Chief Executive Officer Ajay Bhushan Pandey said.
- The e-KYC data is not shared with anyone except with the Aadhaar holder who does the transaction using Aadhaar authentication.
- To counter petitioners’ argument of Aadhaar data leaks, Pandey said there has not been a single instance of any data leak from the UIDAI database.
- The Attorney General also said the Aadhaar database has strong security features.