Aadhaar: SC Infuses a Dose of Reality

Will UID now be open to a debate on privacy and security issues?

The Supreme Court’s stay order of 23rd September on the implementation of Aadhaar has provided much needed relief to people who were being forced to avail of this biometric identity due to backdoor government mandates for access to essential facilities and services such as gas cylinders, registration of birth, property and marriages, salaries in municipal schools and even admission to schools. It has also triggered a discussion on this expensive and dangerous experiment with people’s biometric identifiers (iris scan and fingerprints), under the guise of delivering economic benefits to poor people who do not have an identity. The stay order given by Justices Dr BS Chauhan and SA Bobde in connection with a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Justice KS Puttaswamy (retd) has caused jubilation among privacy activists. Several other petitions filed in the Chennai and Mumbai High Courts have also been transferred to the Supreme Court for hearing. Fortunately, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) does not seem to be in a mood to challenge the Supreme Court order.

The immediate impact of the judgement is to create greater awareness among India’s largely indifferent middle-class to the dangers of identity theft or worse. Privacy activists have pointed out that, all over the world, there is recognition that centralised databases, especially those linked to a person’s biometrics, leave a person vulnerable to identity theft. Worse, the UIDAI, which was rejected by a parliamentary standing committee and has not been approved by parliament, has no provisions for providing recourse to any person whose unique identity number, or Aadhaar, has been misused. In fact, it does not even provide for cancellation of an Aadhaar, once it has been issued, or offer even the most basic assurance about how safely this sensitive data is being stored, or the precautions being taken to prevent its misuse. Finally, Aadhaar was being freely issued to illegal immigrants which the SC expressed concerns about.

Comments
Prithvi Karnati
9 years ago
Still LPG dealers are asking Aadhar number otherwise we will not get subsidy.
Deepak
9 years ago
Crazy! If we can have out bank account, demat account and mutual funds stored online in a computer network, what is wrong in storing Aadhaar identity? Identity theft cannot take place as for identification, a person has to be physically present and his actual biometrics (fingerprints and iris) have to be matched with the records in the Aadhaar database. Merely stealing the Aadhaar records is not useful unlike stealing a bank account/password. Aadhaar is not being freely issued to illegal immigrants, their identity and address proof is required in the form of existing acceptable documents for the same or through an introducer. If they have succeeded in getting these documents such as passport, ration card, etc. there is already breach of the system which does not increase in gravity by registering them for Aadhaar. Besides, Aadhaar will positively identity the existing people at least, so that further inflitrator will not have an Aadhaar card and can be identified, unlike the present system where there is no check and continuous infiltration. Thus, opposition to Aadhaar is more political and due to fear of illegal financial transactions being tracked.
R Varadarajan
Replied to Deepak comment 9 years ago
Absolutely. These are just politics. The country today faces the greatest challenge where there is none in the political arena who would like to put the country and its development above himself and his party !!!
joaquim P de sousa
Replied to Deepak comment 9 years ago
Mr Deepak you have gone overboard in your defence of Nilekhani's panacea . Apparently you are not aware of what is happening on the ground. Contrary to your assertion,there is no check or filtering being caried out and the Aadhar cards are prepared by outsourced company employees based on Xerox of Birth cert and Ration cards. Both can and are faked extensively in Eldorado states such as Goa. One can imagine the state in the Bimaru states. The outsourced employees are contract labour , without accountability. Therefore do not expect any accountability .Question also arises if India is responsible to finance and fund illegal immigrants, because , as the Hon SC also feared the Aadhar has become a joke .
Deepak
Replied to joaquim P de sousa comment 9 years ago
You are missing the point. These migrants already have ration cards and are using all services. Aadhaar at least will give a database with positive identification which presently does not exist, which can be rechecked/validated at a later stage. It can also be used as a cut-off where no new people can be enrolled without tough scrutiny so as to prevent future infiltration which in the present system goes unchecked.
Sucheta Dalal
Replied to Deepak comment 9 years ago
we can only urge you to make the effort to read all our articles on UID and why it is not as simple as you seem to imagine.
Deepak
Replied to Sucheta Dalal comment 9 years ago
While you do have a point in some issues, the fact remains that Aadhaar will bring immense benefits within a short period which far outweigh the demerits especially in a country like India where there is rampant corruption, no tracking of financial transactions and rampant use of black money, lack of credible proof of identity for many people, lack of access to banking, etc. While it could be misused, the existing systems are far more open to misuse due to lack of positive identification of a person from records used to prove identity, no centralised database of identity, transactions and facilities availed, lack of inter-connectivity between various systems, etc. Aadhaar will force people to be much more honest than they presently are. There can always be revalidation of the Aadhaar database as far as citizenship goes and cancellation if a person is found not to be a citizen. The primary need at the initial stage is to have a national database with positive identification and then to link it to various facilities and services. The existing system can be open to the same misuse and abuse as Aadhaar. Aadhaar is like any other no. issued like a bank account no., PF account no., driving licence no., ration card no., passport no., etc. except that it is mean to be one database at national level and covering all citizens. Checks and balances need to be introduced but discarding it will not benefit the country but rather it will greatly lose.
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