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Chief Justice Misra-led SC bench reserves judgment in Aadhaar case

Anurag Dey | Updated on: 10 May 2018, 21:47 IST

The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its verdict on a clutch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhaar and its enabling law the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016.

A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra and comprising Justices AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan reserved the verdict after a day-to-day basis hearing spanning nearly four months.

Besides the constitutional validity, the Narendra Modi government’s move to introduce the law as a Money Bill was also challenged.

During the hearing various petitioners represented by senior counsels including P Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal and Shyam Divan had raised questions over the constitutional validity of the 12-digit biometric identification number system and the Modi government’s move to make its linkage mandatory for availing various government schemes and services including mobile connections.

The petitioners had also contended that Aadhaar was an “electronic leash” designed to track transactions across the life of the citizen and enable the State to profile citizens, track their movements, assess their habits and silently influence their behaviour.

“The profiling enables the State to stifle dissent and influence political decision making,” petitioners had argued claiming the identification system to be akin to a “switch” in the hands of the government by which it can cause the civil death of an individual.

The hearings also witnessed the top court clarifying that it had not ordered mandatory seeding of mobile numbers with Aadhaar and said the government misinterpreted its order and used it as a "tool" to make Aadhaar mandatory for mobile users.

"There was no such direction from the Supreme Court, but you took it and used it as tool to make Aadhaar mandatory for mobile users," the bench had observed.

At the hearing the Centre and Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) strongly defended the Aadhar with its CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey making a power point presentation before the court in defence of the ambitious scheme.

Through his presentation, Pandey made several assertions including that personal data acquired during enrolment, including biometrics, were encrypted and couldn’t be hacked and that breaking the Aadhaar encryption may take more than the age of the universe for the fastest computer on earth.

During the hearing, Attorney General KK Venugopal also informed the court that Aadhaar data was “secure behind walls that are 13 feet high and five feet thick”.

The Modi government in 2016 enacted the law mandating Aadhar for availing subsidies, benefits and services, the expenditure for which is incurred from the Consolidated Fund of India.

While the biometric database was launched in 2009 under the Congress-led UPA, the Narendra Modi government has been steadily mandating the use of Aadhaar for availing wide range of services including filing income tax, registration of mobile phone numbers as well as welfare, pension and employment schemes.

In August 2017, the Supreme Court had declared privacy to be a fundamental right, while clarifying the decision on the constitutional validity of Aadhaar would be taken separately.

First published: 10 May 2018, 21:47 IST