uid

When I opposed Aadhaar in 2010 , I was called a BJP stooge. In 2016 I am still opposing Aadhaar for the same reasons and I am told I am a Congress die hard. No one wants to see why I oppose Aadhaar as it is too difficult. Plus Aadhaar is FREE so why not get one ? Ram Krishnaswamy

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. -Mahatma Gandhi

In matters of conscience, the law of the majority has no place. Mahatma Gandhi

“The invasion of privacy is of no consequence because privacy is not a fundamental right and has no meaning under Article 21. The right to privacy is not a guaranteed under the constitution, because privacy is not a fundamental right.” Article 21 of the Indian constitution refers to the right to life and liberty -Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi

“There is merit in the complaints. You are unwittingly allowing snooping, harassment and commercial exploitation. The information about an individual obtained by the UIDAI while issuing an Aadhaar card shall not be used for any other purpose, save as above, except as may be directed by a court for the purpose of criminal investigation.” -A three judge bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar said in an interim order.

Legal scholar Usha Ramanathan describes UID as an inverse of sunshine laws like the Right to Information. While the RTI makes the state transparent to the citizen, the UID does the inverse: it makes the citizen transparent to the state, she says.

Good idea gone bad
I have written earlier that UID/Aadhaar was a poorly designed, unreliable and expensive solution to the really good idea of providing national identification for over a billion Indians. My petition contends that UID in its current form violates the right to privacy of a citizen, guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. This is because sensitive biometric and demographic information of citizens are with enrolment agencies, registrars and sub-registrars who have no legal liability for any misuse of this data. This petition has opened up the larger discussion on privacy rights for Indians. The current Article 21 interpretation by the Supreme Court was done decades ago, before the advent of internet and today’s technology and all the new privacy challenges that have arisen as a consequence.
Rajeev Chandrasekhar, MP Rajya Sabha

“What is Aadhaar? There is enormous confusion. That Aadhaar will identify people who are entitled for subsidy. No. Aadhaar doesn’t determine who is eligible and who isn’t,” Jairam Ramesh

But Aadhaar has been mythologised during the previous government by its creators into some technology super force that will transform governance in a miraculous manner. I even read an article recently that compared Aadhaar to some revolution and quoted a 1930s historian, Will Durant. Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Rajya Sabha MP

“I know you will say that it is not mandatory. But, it is compulsorily mandatorily voluntary,” Jairam Ramesh, Rajya Saba April 2017.

August 24, 2017: The nine-judge Constitution Bench rules that right to privacy is “intrinsic to life and liberty” and is inherently protected under the various fundamental freedoms enshrined under Part III of the Indian Constitution

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the World; indeed it's the only thing that ever has"

“Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.” - Edward Snowden

Special

Here is what the Parliament Standing Committee on Finance, which examined the draft N I A Bill said.

1. There is no feasibility study of the project]

2. The project was approved in haste

3. The system has far-reaching consequences for national security

4. The project is directionless with no clarity of purpose

5. It is built on unreliable and untested technology

6. The exercise becomes futile in case the project does not continue beyond the present number of 200 million enrolments

7. There is lack of coordination and difference of views between various departments and ministries of government on the project

Quotes

What was said before the elections:

NPR & UID aiding Aliens – Narendra Modi

"I don't agree to Nandan Nilekeni and his madcap (UID) scheme which he is trying to promote," Senior BJP Leader Yashwant Sinha, Sept 2012

"All we have to show for the hundreds of thousands of crore spent on Aadhar is a Congress ticket for Nilekani" Yashwant Sinha.(27/02/2014)

TV Mohandas Pai, former chief financial officer and head of human resources, tweeted: "selling his soul for power; made his money in the company wedded to meritocracy." Money Life Article

Nilekani’s reporting structure is unprecedented in history; he reports directly to the Prime Minister, thus bypassing all checks and balances in government - Home Minister Chidambaram

To refer to Aadhaar as an anti corruption tool despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary is mystifying. That it is now officially a Rs.50,000 Crores solution searching for an explanation is also without any doubt. -- Statement by Rajeev Chandrasekhar, MP & Member, Standing Committee on Finance

Finance minister P Chidambaram’s statement, in an exit interview to this newspaper, that Aadhaar needs to be re-thought completely is probably the last nail in its coffin. :-) Financial Express

The Rural Development Ministry headed by Jairam Ramesh created a road Block and refused to make Aadhaar mandatory for making wage payment to people enrolled under the world’s largest social security scheme NRGA unless all residents are covered.


Thursday, October 8, 2015

8856 - No interim relief: SC refers Aadhaar case to larger bench - Money Control

Oct 08, 2015, 08.19 AM | Source: Moneycontrol.com 

A Supreme Court bench hearing the applicability of Aadhaar for essential services referred the matter to a larger Constitutional bench, and refused to provide interim relief for it and regulators seeking the use of the identification program.

A Supreme Court bench hearing the applicability of Aadhaar for essential services referred the matter to a larger Constitutional bench, and refused to provide interim relief for it and regulators seeking the use of the identification program. 

The case involved the government and regulators such as RBI, SEBI, PFRDA, IRDA and TRAI seeking permission from the apex court to mandate the use of the biometric information-based identification program for telecom and financial services or for schemes such as Jan Dhan Yojana or MGNREGA. 

Opponents of Aadhaar say mandating its use could be an invasion of privacy and expressed concerns over security of users' data. For now, the scope of the use of Aadhaar is in use only for PDS, LPG and kerosene. 

The Aadhaar, operated by the Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI), is the world's largest biometric based idenfication system. The program was started by the erstwhile UPA government and has been given a push by the current government, which has expressed its wish to widen its scope to include other services. Arguing that there was no violation of privacy rights with respect to data collection, senior Supreme Court advocate Harish Salve said Aadhaar had enough safeguards in it. "The poorest of the poor get jeopardized because of the argument of right to privacy," he said. 

Below is the verbatim transcript of Harish Salve's interview.   

Menaka: It does seem that the government and the five regulators that had asked for the scope of the voluntary use of Aadhaar to be expanded has not found any positive decision from the Supreme Court today. What would your comment be on this? 
A: My views on this are very clear. I think the government has put everybody in a bit of a spot by raising the issue of whether there is a right to privacy and getting it stuck in the larger constitutional question. This is an open and shut case which if it was argued on the premise that even if there is a right to privacy, there is no violation by collecting the basic data relating to private human being. If the unnecessary clouds created on the security aspect had been removed by the government effectively, I don't think the case would have really taken this kind of turn. 

Menaka: It will now be referred to a large bench from which I understand it will be the constitutional bench which is yet to be setup from what I understand. 
A: The first issue to be decided is, is there a right to privacy. That is the larger issue to be gone into which is a metaphysical constitutional issue.   According to me it is a non-issue because in 2015 today your right to personal liberty doesn't include the right to privacy. It is a complete constitutional anachronism. 

Menaka: It does seem those who oppose the mandatory use of Aadhaar  without sufficient privacy and security safeguards are concerned about the lack of an explicit right to privacy in the constitution or any overarching privacy law. So, what is the way out of this? 

A: There are so many rights which the Supreme Court has read into the constitution, right to privacy is one of them. I don't think the fact that there is no express right gives rise to any concern in any person superficially familiar with constitutional law. I have appeared in this case for the Delhi government and I personally would think that it is charitable use of language to call the challenger non-sense. If you go into the details of how the data is collected and how the data is maintained, I don't think there is any reason to suspect that there will be some sort of a looming big brother who is watching where you go and checking everything you do and stuff like that.   

Menaka: So, the point you are making is that there ought not to be any privacy or security concerns because the safeguards are all in place? 
A: Absolutely. Today you want to run a television channel, today you want to be an anchor in a television channel, don't you have to give all your particulars? If I want a driving licence, if I want a passport - if somebody wants money from the government, if somebody wants benefit from the government he is asked to give all his particulars. The government says if you want to go and live in the forest and want nothing to do with civil society so be it, go away. 

Menaka: I don't think the argument here is against Aadhaar, I think the question simply was to we have enough safeguards in place to ensure that our biometric data which is retinal scans and finger prints are secure with the government and not with  private agencies, that is the question? 
A: All the people who worry about biometric data being stolen are those people who have assets which can be stolen. One is the abstract right to privacy. I don't know how your privacy is stolen by somebody knowing what your finger print looks like.

Menaka: I am not arguing this, I am just referring to the arguments made in court. The fear is about, for instance, this information being used in criminal investigations. 
A: Constitutional law has never fossilised. Constitutional law evolves. The right to privacy is a notion which has evolved. 50-70 years back nobody thought right to privacy was a constitutional right. Today privacy is a constitutional right. In the same way when you say in today's world right to privacy in a time where there are satellites in the time when all of us want access to electronic media to all the stuff we use to social media where in any case you are completely exposed and to say that the poorest of the poor their right to privacy is in some way jeopardised if somebody gets to know what their fingerprint looks like, what are you going to do with those fingerprints. And if you use those fingerprints to commit a crime that is a matter which can happen in any case. Secondly what is a degree of safeguard which is available in the system. The safeguard is enormous. Today lower middle class people who have bank accounts all their biometrics are available with the bank. That system can be hacked. What about their right to privacy. My ultimate envision of privacy is by the income tax department who wants to know how much I earn on a day to day basis. 

Menaka: I won't wear off into tax here but some of those concerns, made validly in fact, by counsel Shyam Divan were also heightened by the fact that Mr Mukul Rohatgi said that the right to privacy is not an explicit one, so there is some worry here. 
A: When I appeared for the Gujarat Government in the last occasion, I told the court please assume that State of Gujarat has privacy at its highest. How is it being violated. If somebody stole, if you want subsidy from the government we need your biometrics to make sure you are the right guy. 

Menaka: I am sure you would acknowledge that there are concerns and whether the government has done a good job of addressing those concerns adequately or not. 
A: I have not heard a concern of any real genuine merit. I repeat, if there is somebody who wants to live in the forest he is welcome to live in the forest. But if somebody wants to live outside this system is welcome. The Aadhaar Card is not mandatory. We are not saying all citizens must queue up and give their prints. What we are saying is if you are going to have an interaction with the government the government is collecting your biometric data, so that if interaction is facilitated and leakage is prevented that is a larger social good. 

Menaka: And yet the Supreme Court is not fully convinced by that argument hence has referred it to a constitutional bench. 
A: Because a larger issue came up. Last time when it was being argued a very dark picture of what can happen was painted. Now the court had to be shown the other side of the picture as to what are the checks and safeguards. The second time when the case was argued instead of getting into the checks and safeguards of what exactly the Aadhaar Card is all about a huge constitutional issue was raised as to do we at all have a right to privacy. Now, that unsettled the whole situation. So, the court said, alright we will consider a larger question on we have a right to privacy. 

Menaka: But for the immediate impact from what we can understand as of now (interrupted..) 
A: Immediate impact is disaster. 

Menaka: I am sure there are many on the other side who may not agree with you but I won't prolong that debate. As of now it can only be used for food (interrupted..) 
A: You tell me when SEBI came there and said we want people to have an Aadhaar Card to work our accounts they said, sorry, no, you can't have it.