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Aadhaar And The Right To Privacy

Mr. C.S. Sudheer | Posted On Tuesday, August 29,2017, 07:03 PM

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Aadhaar And The Right To Privacy



Aadhaar is a 12-digit unique identification number issued by the Government of India, to every citizen of the country. Today, Aadhaar is required for pretty much everything. You need Aadhaar to get your LPG subsidy, to file income tax returns, to open a bank account or apply for a PAN card. You need Aadhaar to get a new mobile number, to get scholarships and even concession on railway tickets. Now, Aadhaar could soon be compulsory for buying shares and mutual funds.

But, Aadhaar is facing a big problem....It's called Right To Privacy. A nine-judge Supreme Court bench has declared privacy a fundamental right. So what's the problem? What has Aadhaar got to do with Right To Privacy? Till recently, Aadhaar was compulsory only for availing benefits of government schemes like LPG subsidies and so on.

But today, you require Aadhaar for filing ITR, operating a bank account and in some states even registering your vehicle. The Government has collected biometric data of more than a Billion Indians, to plug leaks in social welfare schemes.

Critics argue that if this data falls in the wrong hands it could lead to identity theft, government surveillance and massive security breaches. Petitioners have challenged Aadhaar saying making it mandatory goes against the right to privacy. The Government has hit back using "reasonable restrictions."

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Aadhaar And The Right To Privacy

The power of Aadhaar lies in biometrics. Biometric data is mainly photographs, fingerprints, iris scans and so on. The power of Aadhaar lies in the capture and use of biometrics as a powerful weapon to plug leakages in welfare delivery.

SEE ALSO: How To Pay Using Aadhaar Card?

1. Aadhaar is very efficient in curbing leakages in welfare delivery

Nobody's questioning Aadhaar's efficiency in curbing leakages in welfare delivery. Even the honorable judges of the Supreme Court agree on this. To access any benefit or service the first step....Proof of identity and eligibility....This is where Aadhaar stands out.

You can always argue that a ration card can help you get subsidized food grains or kerosene and you are not wrong. In much the same way an age certificate can get you an old age pension. But, ration cards and age certificates can be duplicated or forged. An Aadhaar card cannot.

Yes....Aadhaar has its weaknesses. There have been some fake Aadhaar's going around, genuine citizens being denied welfare benefits, but this is no reason to junk Aadhaar. These problems can be fixed. The basics remain...Aadhaar has curbed leakages in welfare scheme and few can argue against this.

SEE ALSO: Can Linking Aadhaar With Pan Curb Tax Evasion

2. Aadhaar and the compulsory linking with bank accounts

It is compulsory for you to link Aadhaar with your bank accounts by December 31st 2017. But...The Supreme Court has made a ruling saying privacy is a fundamental right and banks could find asking you to link Aadhaar with bank accounts, difficult. You can easily say giving Aadhaar details is a breach of privacy.

So what does the Government do? The Government can tell you to link Aadhaar with your bank account or deny you welfare benefits like LPG subsidy benefit. After all as FM Arun Jaitley says, Aadhaar is needed for effective “dissipation of social welfare schemes.”

But there's a way you can escape, You can decide to link one bank account just to accept subsidy benefits and say right to privacy for the other accounts. This would stop the Government efforts in curbing the spread of black money and tax evasion.

The Government has another weapon up its sleeve. It's called 'reasonable restrictions' that can be put on the fundamental right to privacy. This could be legitimate national security interests, prevention of criminal offences and tax evasion.

You can always say, why does the Government want to know how much money you have in the bank? The Government argues and has the right to know how much ill-gotten or tax-evaded wealth you have in your account.

3. Supreme Court verdict will not affect Aadhaar-PAN linkage

You and other taxpayers have to link your Aadhaar with PAN by August 31st 2017. This deadline stands as the supreme court verdict will not affect Aadhaar-PAN linkage. If you don't link Aadhaar-PAN, then your ITR form will not be processed.

SEE ALSO: How To Link PAN with Aadhaar Through SMS

So what's with the Aadhaar and the right to privacy? Aadhaar Act is a valid Act and the Supreme Court judgment has not said anything about the Aadhaar Act. So, Aadhaar enrollment will continue unhindered.

The UIDAI CEO has stated that Aadhaar Act protects the privacy of citizens as a fundamental right and the provisions of the Aadhaar Act safeguard the personal data of citizens and how it can be used. Under the Aadhaar Act, your personal data will not be shared, without your consent. The Aadhaar Act protects your personal data and your right to privacy.

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