Bombay HC directs UIDAI, Centre to reply on safety concerns regarding Aadhaar and UID
While the UIDAI has maintained Aadhaar is voluntary, why then people are being threatened that they cannot access any services or benefits unless they enrol for the UID scheme, the PIL says
The Bombay High Court today directed the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and Central government to decide within three months on a representation questioning the lack of safeguards in the Aadhaar and UID. The court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Vickram Krishna, Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Yogesh Pawar, Dr Nagarjuna G, and Prof R Ramkumar (TISS).
It has been found that the project is “full of uncertainty in technology as the complex scheme is built upon untested, unreliable technology and several assumptions”. This is a serious concern given that the project is about fixing identity through the use of technology, especially biometrics. Neither the Proof of Concept studies nor any assessment studies done by the UIDAI have been able to affirm the possibility of maintaining accuracy as the database expands to accommodate 1.2 billion people. The estimated failure of biometrics is expected to be as high as 15%.
Advocate for the petitioners, Mihir Desai, told the court that there were severe concerns on the issue of safety systems, privacy and security of the people. A data base of this scale of 1.2 billion people’s fingerprints and iris scans has never been created. Thus the entire proposition for a population base such as India is completely untested and unproven. The ID system in UK ID Cards’ non-duplication was entirely scrapped. It is estimated that approximately 5% of any population has unreadable fingerprints, either due to scars or aging or illegible prints. In the Indian environment, experience has shown that the failure to enrol is as high as 15% due to the prevalence of a huge population dependent on manual labour.
One of the biggest illegalities being committed under the Aaadhaar scheme is by making it mandatory through coercive conditions. UIDAI has always, repeatedly stated that Aadhaar is a voluntary scheme. Thus, enrolment for Aadhaar is a voluntary act. The NIAI draft Bill, which seeks to legitimatise the functioning of the first respondent, is so worded to establish that Aadhaar is optional and not compulsory. However, in its premature implementation, in practice the scheme is gradually being made non-voluntary and mandatory. This is made worse by adoption of coercive pre-conditions by different government departments.
The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld the right to privacy within the right to life in Article 21, and any restriction must be justified through a rational and reasonable statutory procedure. UIDAI, as it presently stands, is prima facie unconstitutional for contravening the right to privacy without providing any safeguards, procedures and guidelines.
Adv Mihir Desai argued that the UID was promoted as a “voluntary entitlement”. Now, people are being threatened that they cannot access any services or institutions unless they are enrolled for a UID. The petition submitted stated that the enrolment for Aadhaar is working on an extremely fast pace that it has become impossible to avoid attempts at enrolment. The petitioners submit that such mandatory, non-voluntary and coercive enrolment for Aadhaar is an affront to their to personal integrity, right to make decisions about themselves and the right to dignity all enshrined and developed as indivisible elements of the Right to Life under Article 21 of the Constitution.