The Supreme Court on Wednesday, 26th September, passed a landmark verdict on the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar. A five-judge bench, led by the Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud, and Ashok Bhushan upheld the validity of the Aadhaar, but put forth certain conditions.
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Supreme Court Verdict on Aadhaar
Some of the key points of the verdict are:
- Addressing petitions regarding privacy and merits of Aadhaar, the Supreme Court has said that there is no violation of individual citizens’ rights in the current Aadhaar Act. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is a statutory body that only assigns and authenticates unique numbers based on the biometric and demographic data submitted to it.
- The Court has pointed out that minimal data should be collected for this purpose and that the government should come up with strong protection laws.
- Aadhaar empowers marginalised sections of society by giving them an identity, and ensuring that the subsidies, benefits, and schemes designed for them, reaches intended beneficiaries without the funds being siphoned off.
- Children cannot be denied benefits like mid-day meals, admission to schools for want of Aadhaar. Furthermore, they are given an option of opting out of the Aadhaar benefits, once they become adults.
- In a major win for the public, the Supreme Court has struck down Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act, which required Aadhaar details to be given to Private Entities for verification. It is no longer required to link Aadhaar number with telecom operators or bank accounts. Private Entities can no longer demand and store an individual’s biometric and demographic data.
- Schools can no longer deny admission to children without an Aadhaar. The Supreme Court has termed such a denial as “Invalid”. Regulatory bodies like CBSE, NGC, NEET, and JEE cannot make the requirement of Aadhaar mandatory for their examinations.
- Section 33 of the Aadhaar Act has been read down under this verdict. Earlier, the section allowed for disclosure of Aadhaar details by the government in the interest of national security. Now, the person whose information is sought can challenge that decision in a higher court and object to the disclosure of information.
- The Supreme Court has upheld Section 139AA of the Income Tax Act and said that Aadhaar / Enrolment ID of Aadhaar application form, has to be mandatorily quoted for filing Income Tax Returns.
- No one can be denied the benefits of social welfare schemes for want of Aadhaar. Failure of authentication through Aadhaar is not reason enough to deny benefits. The court has also directed the Government, not to issue Aadhaar cards to illegal immigrants.
- Justice Sikri, in reading out the verdict said that Aadhaar means “Unique” and that it is better to be unique than to be the best. The fundamental difference between the Aadhaar and other identity proofs is this Uniqueness.
- 4 out of the 5 members of the bench, agreed that passing the Aadhaar Bill as a money Bill in the house was valid. Justice DY Chandrachud, in a minority judgement held that the Aadhaar law is not a money bill, and hence, passing it as a money bill is a fraud on the constitution.
- Justice Sikri, in agreement with three other members, said that the remedy is to plug loopholes instead of stopping the project altogether.
- DY Chandrachud has read his dissent note stating that the Aadhaar is a violation of privacy as it could lead to profiling of persons and voters. He also said that the dignity of individuals cannot be subject to algorithms.
- With no clear instruction regarding the data that has already been given to private companies and mobile operators, it is unclear as to what will become of that data. However, Justice DY Chandrachud has ordered telecom and private companies to immediately delete and destroy all Aadhaar data that was collected. He also pointed out that algorithms by foreign companies are out of the control of UIDAI and that the rights of citizens and national security cannot be guaranteed by a mere contract between UIDAI and the foreign company.
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