Legality of Aadhaar-linking

The Centre has informed the Supreme Court that the deadline for linking aadhar card with all schemes has been extended to March 31, 2018. The question is not, however, the extension of the date of linking but the legality of the Unique Identification Authority itself which the aadhar card actually is. The aadhaar card contains all the unchangeable physical characteristics of an individual – from his fingerprints to the colour of his eyes – and all other personal data relating to him. First of all it is an intrusion into the privacy of the individual citizen. The Government says privacy is not a fundamental right recognized in the Constitution. But the apex court has not accepted it. That apart, the far bigger and more vital question is the protection of the data contained in the aadhaar card and the consequences to the individual citizen if the confidential data can be accessed by others in an unauthorized way and put to criminal use.
At the time of the introduction of the aadhar card (during the UPA regime), the Government assured the citizenry that the biometric information contained in the aadhaar card are safe and cannot be accessed.  But scores of cases have come to light in which aadhaar cards were hacked and the information stolen was used for criminal purposes without the card-holder being aware of such misuse but all the same being legally responsible for such crimes. Now that the Government has made it mandatory to link the aadhaar card to a whole range of services like bank accounts, PAN numbers, mobile telephones and cooking gas connexions, etc., a number of non-government bodies are getting the aadhaar card number. It has been shown how easily interested parties can hack the aadhaar number and from that obtain all information about the citizen  like the money lying in his bank accounts and easily withdraw such money without the citizen’s knowledge. A SIM card for a mobile phone can be easily obtained by people with criminal intent once they know the number of the aadhaar card.
The time has come to have a relook at the basic purpose of the aadhaar card and decide whether it is time to scrap the programme altogether. The details of bank deposits of every citizen can be easily accessed by the Income Tax Department and other bodies like the ED and the SFIO without referring to an aadhaar card. There is hardly any aspect of a citizen’s life that is not under the scanner of the authorities. Why then there has to be such a thing as the aadhar card at all?

Monday, 18 December, 2017