The constitutional bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, comprising Justices A.K. Sikri, A.M. Khanwilkar, D.Y. Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan have upheld the validity of AADHAAR, subject to some conditions.
The Supreme Court was petitioned to strike down the Aadhaar Act, under which the Aadhaar programme is run, on grounds that it is unconstitutional.
Is Aadhaar constitutionally valid?
Is it a violation of the fundamental right to privacy and personal body autonomy?
The details are as under:
- “Aadhaar gives dignity to marginalised sections, which outweighs the harm,” said the court in its verdict on 27 petitions that challenged the constitutional validity of Aadhaar and called it a violation of the right to privacy.
- The court said “very, very minimal data” is collected for Aadhaar, that other documents needed for Aadhaar are also proof of identity. Over one billion Indians have already signed up for Aadhaar, set up to be a secure form of digital identification for citizens to be used for government services.
- The 12-digit Unique Identification Number was made compulsory for services including bank accounts, PAN cards, cellphone services, passport and even driving licenses.It was made the overarching proof of identity and residence, overriding all other prior identity proofs.
- But as it was rolled out, there were concerns about privacy, data security and recourse for citizens in the face of data leaks.
- Petitioners argued that Aadhaar — built on a mammoth biometric database comprising fingerprints and iris scans — cannot be made mandatory.
- The huge Aadhaar database can easily be compromised, petitioners had said, pointing out that a law that “impacts human life can’t remain a law”.
- The Centre had defended Aadhaar on several grounds – the biggest being that it ensured proper distribution of benefits to millions and prevented siphoning of funds. Aadhaar data is safe and cannot be breached, insisted the government and the Aadhaar authority UIDAI.
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also defended the system, saying Aadhaar represented the march of technology and those opposing it “have lagged behind in technology — either they cannot understand or are purposely spreading lies”.
- Hearings in the case started in January and went on for 38 days – making it the second longest after the Keshavananda Bharti case, which questioned if parliament’s power to amend the Constitution was unlimited, to the extent of taking away all fundamental rights. The hearing went on for five months in 1973.
- Last year, the Supreme Court had ruled that the right to privacy is an “intrinsic part of life and personal liberty”, which is guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution.