Aadhaar: India Supreme Court verdict on constitutional validity

India’s top court will pronounces its verdict on the batch of petitions related to Aadhaar

Supreme Court Bench consisting of Chief Justice of India, Justices Chandrachud, Sikri, Khanwilkar and Bhushan delivers Aadhaar judgment. Follow the updates: 


10.00am

No person’s right can be denied on the ground of lack of Aadhaar. UGC, NEET, CBSE, Schools cannot ask for Aadhaar number.

No child can be denied any schemes if they are not able to bring their Aadhaar number.  

9.40am

Justice Sikri continues

Education has taken us from thumb impression to signature, technology has taken us from signature to thumb impression.

Proportionality is to be adjudged after laying down certain norms: privacy, whether there’s larger public interest, compelling judgment.

Human dignity is already a settled right from an individual’s point of view. Discusses elaborately on the dignity of an individual.

9.30am

Justice Sikri

Justices Sikri has written summary of the judgment that runs to 40 pages. He is reading out the majority judgment at present.

Aadhaar eliminates any chance of duplication, Justice Sikri observes. Sikri also states that enrolment was fool proof. 

Uniqueness is the fundamental difference between Aadhaar and other identity proofs. Minimal data is collected for establishing identity under Aaadhar.

Aadhaar has become the most discussed subject in recent past: Justices Sikri, Aadhaar identification is unparalleled. It empowers the marginalized sections of society by giving them an identity.  

Aadhaar: the case so far

New Delhi:  India’s top court will likely pronounce its verdict shortly on a number of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhaar on grounds of it being violative of the fundamental right to privacy.

The five-judge constitution bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice AK Sikri, Justice AM Khanwilkar, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Ashok Bhushan had reserved the verdict after hearing the petitions for over 38 days starting January 17 this year.

Validity in question

Besides the validity of Aadhaar, the verdict on challenge to the tabling of Aadhaar as a money bill will also be important as it would have a bearing on the powers of the Lok Sabha Speaker.

As of now Centre has issued 139 notifications, practically touching every aspect of a citizen’s day-to-day life, making Aadhaar linking mandatory.

Besides the constitutional validity of Aadhaar on the touchstone of right to privacy, the other issue, if Aadhaar is to stay, is what would be the scope and width of its applicability.

An offshoot of challenge to Aadhaar scheme on the grounds of it being violative of right to privacy was that a nine-judge constitution bench examined the issue and in August 2017 had held that the right to privacy was a fundamentals right.

The August 2017 verdict holding privacy a fundamental right is likely to impact the Aadhaar verdict.

Right to privacy as fundamental right 

While holding that the right to privacy was a fundamental right, Justice Chandrachud in his August 2017 judgment had said, “Apart from national security, the state may have justifiable reasons for the collection and storage of data. In a social welfare state, the government embarks upon programmes which provide benefits to impoverished and marginalised sections of society.”

He had said: “There is a vital state interest in ensuring that scarce public resources are not dissipated by the diversion of resources to persons who do not qualify as recipients.”

However, Justice Chandrachud had qualified the collection of data with legitimate State interest saying, “But, the data which the state has collected has to be utilised for legitimate purposes of the state and ought not to be utilised unauthorizedly for extraneous purposes. This will ensure that the legitimate concerns of the state are duly safeguarded while, at the same time, protecting privacy concerns.”

These were the grounds that were argued by the Centre in defence of Aadhaar before the constitution bench.

Speaking on data protection in August 2017 judgment Justice Chandrachud had said, “Informational privacy is a facet of the right to privacy. The dangers to privacy in an age of information can originate not only from the state but from non-state actors as well.”

In the course of the Aadhaar hearing, the constitution bench had described data as a “goldmine of commercial information.”

In the right to privacy judgment, the court had “commended” the Union Government the “need to examine and put into place a robust regime for data protection.”

“The creation of such a regime requires a careful and sensitive balance between individual interests and legitimate concerns of the state”, the court had said in 2017.

While holding the individual data is a goldmine of commercial information, the court had in the course of the Aadhaar hearing had said that Aadhaar was not a panacea for all ailments of governance and frauds.

The petition challenging the Aadhaar scheme — when it had no statutory backing which eventually came by 2016 AadhaarAAct — was first moved by the retired judge of Karnataka High Court Justice KS Puttaswamy.

Legal battle

The legal battle against Aadhaar from the day one was led by senior counsel Shyam Divan who appeared for Justice Puttaswamy and later represented other petitioners as well.

Divan had earned the ire of Attorney General K.K. Venugopal for describing Aadhaar an electronic leash and comparing the collection of Aadhaar data akin to “concentration camp” and “totalitarian regime.”

(With inputs from IANS)

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