Friday, November 20, 2015

Aadhaar Not Compulsory For Government Services Supreme Court

Aadhaar is the most controversial project of India as it violates human rights and civil liberties in cyberspace. In fact, if you speak against Aadhaar project at social media platforms like Twitter, your tweets would be censored with impunity. Since its inception, Aadhaar project is a heavily censored subject in India. At the time of writing this post, Twitter is still censoring dissenting tweets regarding Aadhaar.

The dissenting tweets regarding Digital India are also censored by Twitter in real time and almost all of them are censored to give a positive image of Digital India project. We have written an article titled “Digital India and Aadhaar Related Critical Policy Suggestions and Views of Praveen Dalal” where all the censored dissenting tweets about Aadhaar and Digital India projects have been catalogued for ready reference.

Aadhaar has also been clubbed with Digital India project and that had made the combination the biggest digital panopticon of human race. This digital panopticon of India must be urgently declared unconstitutional by Indian Supreme Court. Similarly, Aadhaar project of India must also be declared unconstitutional by Indian Supreme Court. Despite the clear directions (PDF) of Supreme Court, both Central and State Government have made Aadhaar compulsory for various services. This is not only contempt of court but also a clear violation of Constitutional provisions and safeguards. For instance, Digital Locker tied up with Aadhaar is illegal and would not serve Digital India.

The Central Government is lying before the Supreme Court by claiming that Aadhaar is not mandatory for government services. The reality is that Aadhaar has been made compulsory for all government services directly as well as indirectly. Supreme Court of India has taken a stringent view against this process of making Aadhaar compulsory. It has directed that Aadhaar cannot be made compulsory for government services and any authority violating this direction of Supreme Court would be taken to task.

Supreme Court on Monday reiterated its earlier order that Aadhaar card is not compulsory and added that officials who insist on them will be taken to task. A Bench of Justices J. Chelameswar, S.A. Bobde and C. Nagappan clarified that demands made by officials for Aadhaar card is in clear violation of the Supreme Court’s interim order of September 23, 2013. In the 2013 order, the apex court had directed that “no person should suffer for not getting the Aadhaar card, inspite of the fact that some authority had issued a circular making it mandatory”.

“It is a matter of great public importance. The issue has serious implication in terms of Constitution. Notwithstanding the court’s order, there is insistence for Aadhaar. There is complete apathy on the part of officials,” senior advocate Gopal Subramaniam, representing one of the petitioners and Bangalore-resident, Mathew Thomas, submitted.

As an example, he referred to NCT government’s notification on March 9, 2015, insisting that couples require Aadhaar cards to get their marriage registered under the Special Marriage Act. In fact, senior advocate Anil Divan pointed out that the Bombay High Court Registrar had recently received an official communication asking him to make Aadhaar mandatory for disbursal of salary to staff and even judges.

Mr. Subramanium argued that collection of personal data of residents of India under the Aadhaar scheme is not exactly a government activity, but outsourced to private contractors. “On the surface it (Aadhaar) is a simple document of identity, but it has linkages by means of iris scans and biometric details. God forbid if identities are exchanged or mistaken. The Executive’s scheme involves private partners. Who are these private partners?” Mr. Subramanium submitted.

Submitting how the ordinary man is now prone to the perils of identity fraud, Mr. Subramanium said the “Sovereign State also has the duty to protect its citizens, to protect his identity, his personal information against possible misuse”.

“You better advise the States, if the officials insist, it would have consequences. We will take them to task. This is absolutely not right,” Justice Chelameswar observed.