The Supreme Court has rejected a petition seeking an extension of deadline beyond March 31, 2018 for linking Aadhaar with a host of services like banking, mobile phones and schemes like post office deposits.
A five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Deepak Misra, turned down the plea filed by a senior advocate Shyam Divan on the grounds that hearing of the petition would not be completed by the end of March.
Notably, the same bench is also hearing petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Act, 2016, which was passed as a Money Bill by the parliament bypassing the consent of the upper house. The bench, while rejecting the petition filed by Shyam Divan, indicated that all these concerns would be taken care off when it concludes the ongoing hearing on Aadhaar validity and passes its final verdict.
Earlier, the government had extended the deadline for linking of the 12-digit unique identity number to a number of services including PPF by three months to March 31, 2018.
Senior Advocate Gopal Subramanium, while representing Aadhaar critics in the Supreme Court, also questioned the notifications issued by the government linking Aadhaar to Voter ID. “The flawed Aadhaar architecture will be used now to enfranchise and de-enfranchise,” he argued.
Subramanium while advocating for a data protection law stated that storage of critically private data including biometrics and demographic data at multiple locations heightens the vulnerability of data misuse or abuse.
After hearing the arguments of the senior counsel, the Supreme Court also sought to know about the case of private agencies, with access to Aadhaar database, passing out the information to some third parties for commercial use.
Notably, the entire Aadhaar project has been a topical controversy, essentially on the grounds of data privacy concerns, alleged data breaches and leakages and denial of essential services for the want of Aadhaar. Opponents of the project, which has registered over 1.1 Bn enrollments so far, have also opposed against making Aadhaar mandatory for availing social security benefits and other services.
However, the Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI), the executive agency of the Aadhaar project, has recently directed concerned government authorities and officials not to deny any access to essential services for the lack of Aadhaar. In a bid to add an additional layer of data protection, the UIDAI has also introduced a 16 digit Virtual ID, which will be rolled out by the month of March.
The central government is also considering drafting a comprehensive Data Privacy Bill to address the privacy concerns. Union Minister of Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad has recently stated that the committee set up to study the prospects of the proposed “Data Privacy Bill” is soon going to submit its report.
Now since the petition demanding the extension of the deadline for linking Aadhaar with a host of services have been rejected by the Supreme Court, all eyes would be on the final verdict passed by the constitutional bench. With the bench signalling to accommodate the concerns raised by the petition in its final verdict, it is very much likely that the judgment would be pronounced before the end of March.
[The development was reported by ET]