What happened in the Supreme Court on Tuesday as the judges heard a public interest litigation that challenged the constitutional validity of Aadhaar?
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court issued notices to state governments to explain their stance on making the unique identity (UID) number, Aadhaar compulsory.
Hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) that challenged the constitutional validity of Aadhaar number being issued by Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the apex court opined that it would not want to be in a situation where a state government would later plead that they were not given an opportunity to be heard.
Shyam Divan, the counsel for Maj Gen (retd) SG Vombatkere, cited example of several States which made Aadhaar mandatory for availing of host of services. For instance, he said in Kerala and Himachal Pradesh, admissions to school required students to have Aadhaar. Maharashtra recently made Aadhaar compulsory for government employees to draw their salary and pay slips. Madhya Pradesh followed the Centre’s diktat to make Aadhaar mandatory for receiving pension and provident fund benefits in three districts while Himachal Pradesh linked the Aadhaar scheme to offer scholarships in universities.
The bench of Justices BS Chauhan and SA Bobde was initially of the view that the petitioners are only bothered by the government making UID compulsory. So, the Bench asked Divan, “If we order that it cannot make it mandatory, would you have a case?”
Divan replied that the issues are deeper and he needs time to explain the whole scheme. The Aadhaar project, the senior advocate said, was ultra vires as it did not have a statutory backing. Moreover, no statutory guidance exists on crucial questions such as—who can collect biometric information, how it is to be collected and stored, protection of collected data, who can use the data and when it must be used.
The Supreme Court then asked, “Would you have a case if Parliament passes a law giving UID legal status?” Divan replied that even if the Constitution is amended, UID would be illegal.
Divan then took the court through the flow chart of how UID enrolments are done, the kind of private companies are involved and the dangers of the scheme. He pointed out how UIDAI signed memorandum of understanding with States which had no legal sanctity. He said, State appoints registrars, who could even be a private person, who engaged private companies to collect biometric data. There is also the fear that the private party which collects the data then stores it in a personal laptop, which does not belong to the government.
The counsel for Maj Gen (retd) Vombatkere, then briefly mentioned some abuses which could be carried out using UID.
He brought out how if a password of an ATM card was compromised, the cardholder could change the password, but if one's fingerprints or iris (biometrics) are the passwords, then the person whose password is compromised has no remedy. The court wanted to know the definition of biometrics in UID and spent some time studying it.
He also told the apex court about how UID changes the relationship between the state and the citizen. Convicted criminals relinquish some privacy rights. They have their fingerprints taken for record. Here the government is treating all people as criminals. One of the judges on the bench was very interested in this line of argument and asked many probing questions.
Interestingly, neither the UIDAI nor union government have filed any counter to the PIL. They have not denied any of the allegations made in the petition by Maj Gen (retd) Vombatkere and Col (retd) Matthew Thomas.
Japanese Nippon Steel and Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal have reached a basic accord to buy ThyssenKrupp's steel plant in the US for about $2 billion
Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal and ArcelorMittal, the world’s two largest steelmakers, are close to buy a plant in the US from Germany’s ThyssenKrupp in a deal worth about $2 billion.
According to a report from Nikkei, Japanese Nippon Steel and Luxembourg-based ArcelorMittal have reached a basic accord with ThyssenKrupp on the deal.
Without naming its sources, the newspaper said, the partners are making a joint bid for the plant in Alabama state, which manufactures automotive sheet steel, aiming to more than double their combined production capacity in the US.
Without identifying possible buyers, ThyssenKrupp earlier this month said it was in exclusive negotiations on selling the modern but unprofitable plant which only came online in 2010.
Nippon Steel and ArcelorMittal will split the purchase costs evenly, with specifics to be fleshed out and announced in early December, the Nikkei said.
ArcelorMittal and the Japanese giant already jointly produce steel in Indiana State in the US.
Orient Resorts had raised more than Rs10 crore from over 50,000 investors through collective investment schemes by promising 100 times return by investing in teak tree saplings
Market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has asked Orient Resorts to wind up its operations and refund the money which it had collected from public promising 100 times return by investing in teak tree saplings.
SEBI had received a complaint alleging that Orient Resorts had raised more than Rs10 crore from over 50,000 investors through collective investment schemes (CIS) without obtaining requisite registration from the market regulator.
In an order dated 26th November, SEBI asked Orient Resorts to wind up all such activities and refund the money collected from public investors within three months.
Besides the company, Darshanbhai Arvindbhai Shah (former managing director) and two directors Brahm Dev Amarnath Shukla and Dilpesh V Shah have also been barred from dealing in the securities market for a period of three years.
SEBI, prima facie observed, that Orient Resorts had launched a scheme — Vanashree Teak Bumper Profits Scheme — in 1993. It called for an investment of Rs910 per unit for a period of 18 years from the investors and claimed that the investors would receive Rs91,000 for every Rs910 invested for one unit.
The money collected was pooled towards setting up of a teak plantation.