Adhar Card and Supreme Court's Judgement - Seeker's Thoughts

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Sunday, 30 September 2018

Adhar Card and Supreme Court's Judgement


Introduction

The Kargilm Review Committee and a Group of Ministers recommended a multipurpose National Identity Card. 

In March, 2006, the government announced National Common Minimum Programme for targeted government subsidies as there was problem of leakage. 

The concept UIDAI was initially set up by the government of India in January 2009, as an attached office under the aegis of the planning commission via notification in the Gazette of India. According to the notification, the UIDAI was giver the responsibility to lay down plans and policies to implement the UIDAI scheme, to own and operate the UIDAI database, and to be responsible for its updating and maintenance on an ongoing basis. Adhaar was given a legislative sanction in 2016. 
What is unique identification authority of India (UIDAI)?
The Unique Identification Authority of India is a statutory authority established under the provisions of the Adhar which is related to targeted delivery of financial and other subsidies, benefits and services. Adhar act 2016. The UIDAI comes under the Ministry of Electronics and Information technology (MeitY), Government of India.
Adhar is a 12- digital unique number that be obtained by residents of India, based on their biometric and demographic data. The main objective of Adhar card is to provide universal identity to every Indian resident.
Resident’s meant to be?
1.      Any Indian Civilian is eligible to apply the Adhar Card.
2.      Kids who have attained an age of 3 years qualify to have an Adhar
3.      NRI and Foreigners Residing in India are also eligible to take this Adhar.

Benefits of Adhar Card
There are various benefits of Adhar card especially to the Economically Weaker Section (EWS) or citizens who are living in below poverty line (BPL).
They can get targeted subsidies from government’s ongoing schemes by linking their Adhar card.
In addition to this it helps in reducing the corruption since every individual carries only one unique number.
The problem of leakage, that means when subsidies were given to the poor, they did not reach to them. The middle man or the distributor of those services took advantage of those services. Hence this leakage of benefits would also stop due to Adhar.
Issue related to Adhar card
It is believed that the card will further be given more importance as more and more government schemes are being launched requiring it as a mandatory document for every Indian citizen.
Adhar is India’s biometric identification system, which is the largest such project in the world. Though Adhar has become the focal point of debate on right of privacy as threats to data security and citizen’s rights to privacy may come under threat.
The constitution of India does not provide the data protection laws in the changing environment of today where hacking and different threats in form of viruses,  ransom ware etc. are on the rise.
 So mandating the Adhar directly tempers with the Article 21 of the Indian constitution, i.e. right to liberty which stated that “no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law”.
Since the constitution of India does not specially guarantee ‘right to privacy’, the determine of privacy as a right completely rests upon the interpretation of the judiciary and has been subject to restrictions under various provisions and judgments of the supreme court of India.
Cause of Data Leak: A rising threat
The information can easily be used by cybercriminals for impersonation or identity theft as pointed by the various report. The main problem of the issue in an unsecured API (application programming interface), so data can be accessed easily.

Supreme Court's judgment
The Judgment Panel has struck down provisions in the act that made its use mandatory in various applications for getting services. The court has ruled that companies can not establish individual’s identity and this is considered as unconstitutional. 
Neither the Central government nor UIDAI have the source code for the duplication technology, and the source code belong to a foreign corporation. So basically security will be compromised, and UIDAI is a licensee. 
Sections 33(1), 33(2), 47, 57 have been struck down by the Supreme Court. 
Section 33(1) allows disclosure of information, if ordered by a court above District. 
Section 33(2) allowed identity and authentication data to be disclosed in the interest of national security or on direction of an officer not below the rank of joint secretary. 
Under Section 47 no individual was allowed to file a complaint if he/she felt that their data was leaked or misused. 
So basically the law only allowed the court to take cognizance of a complaint filed by UIDAI or anyone authorized by it. 
Private companies like Paytm and Airtel Payment Banks also demanded Adhar details from customers that are again unconstitutional as mentioned by justice. 
Conclusion 
The intentions of government behind applying Adhar are appreciated as it targets the deserving beneficiary avoid leakage and helps in maintaining the exact report. However, policies are judged by the outcome not by intentions. Data Security is also a matter of concern in the constantly changing world. The data can easily be compromised by private companies, so there should be strong arrangement to save the data. 
To work efficiently the government could not compromise with fundamental rights of the citizens.  There may be chances of sliding towards authoritarian cultures if compromised with fundamental rights of individuals. 
The Judgment narrows the scope of Adhar only to plug leakage in subsidy scheme and to have better targeting of welfare benefits.