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


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.


Search This Blog

Thursday, October 8, 2015

8864 - Protecting the right to privacy: Why Aadhar needs to get Parliament sanction first by Rajeev Chandrasekhar Rajya Sabha MP - Scroll In


Concerns over privacy, accuracy and data security in the much hyped project – that lacks lacks any legislative or legal basis – need to be addressed.
Rajeev Chandrasekhar  · Today · 09:00 am



Photo Credit: Twitter/News 18

Paragraph 5.2 of chapter 5 of the 87th Law Commission report on the Prisoners Identification Act, 1980 states:
“It is well established, that in the absence of a specific statutory provision empowering a specified authority to take finger prints or measurements or to compel a person to furnish a specimen signature, the use of force for any of these purposes would prima facie amount to a civil wrong.”

In short, while there is a statutory provision when it comes to dealing even with convicts, there is none for the government's biometrics-based Aadhar unique identity project.

This is important in the light of the government seeking a modification of the Supreme Court’s orders on Aadhaar, seeking to make it mandatory for the public distribution system and liquefied petroleum gas subsidy benefits. While this seems like a reasonable request and plays to the widely held belief (including mine) that subsidies must be directly targeted, there are a number of questions about Aadhaar that still elude answers.

The central question, therefore, is: Do the ends justify the means, especially when individual rights are involved?

No legislative or legal basis

Based on an idea mooted by the Vajpayee government for a national identification card, Aadhaar is a large database of biometric and other details of millions of people, but it lacks any legislative or legal basis.

This is an important issue because holders of data need to be legally responsible for the data that they collect and hold on behalf of the data givers.  The lack of legislative scrutiny and therefore legislative sanction for this project is troubling. There are no legal obligations on the Unique Identification Authority of India on the use of this data, either in terms of its integrity or for protecting the citizen parting with sensitive data.

The project has been very successfully positioned and presented as a great technological and transformational tool. This spin has been helped along by the absence of any detailed scrutiny or debate in Parliament or otherwise. Which is why questions such as why the scheme funded by the tax-payers is also available to non-citizens and why it would permit non-citizens to avail subsidies and benefits are yet to be answered. Why there are so many fraudulent and fake entries in the Aadhaar database is a question that has also successfully evaded a legitimate answer.

The right to privacy

The lack of a legislation guaranteeing the right to privacy in India also becomes a factor to consider.

Maintaining biometric data of more than 100 crore Indians without any legal obligation to maintain privacy is by far the most compelling argument against Aadhaar. In a post-Snowden world, how can something as contentious as Aadhaar, be allowed to take roots without even as much as a parliamentary discussion?

Aadhaar has been controversial since its very inception. When mooted, the scheme was resisted by the home ministry because authentication data by UIDAI does not satisfy security criteria. The home ministry even refused to use this data for the National Population Register because statutory processes had not been followed in collecting demographic and biometric data.

The methods and processes of data collection and storage for the project may have received severe criticism but they have not received enough scrutiny.  In a recently written article I had detailed how the UIDAI has enlisted the services of several private subcontractors, including those that aren’t Indian or subject to Indian law for data collation, which exacerbates the threat to privacy.

Unless and until there is a comprehensive legislation on privacy there is no reason for Indian citizens to place their faith in the good intentions of vendors with no particular affiliation to our laws. The Central Identities Data Repository, under the UIDAI, is a centralised database – that is, all demographic and biometric data is stored as one database. This, in the absence of a data protection legislation, is a ticking time bomb. The ramifications of central databases on the privacy of citizens are potent.

The debate on the right to Privacy is only gaining in strength and momentum globally. Earlier this week, the European Court of Justice deemed that the United States Safe Harbour mechanism, which facilitates the transfer of personal data from the European Union to servers hosted in the USA, was inadequate, and held that user data generated in the EU will have to be governed by EU laws for data protection. This now puts the ball in the USA's court, as they will have to match the EU standards for privacy.

As India inches towards Digital India, it is imperative that we too create a robust privacy and data protection architecture. In a post-Snowden world, it would be unwise for us to ignore this.

Brushing aside the issue of privacy is objectionable as the government is not entitled to enforce any condition which in effect deprives a citizen of another guaranteed right under the Constitution. This  "Doctrine of Unconstitutional Conditions" emerges from American Case Laws and was also adopted in India through a nine judge bench decision of the Supreme Court in Ahmedabad St. Xavier’s College Society Vs.  State of Gujarat (1974) 1 SCC 717, which stated:
“The doctrine of “unconstitutional condition” means any stipulation imposed upon the grant of a governmental privilege which in effect requires the recipient of the privilege to relinquish some constitutional right.”

Part of the solution?

The need to reform delivery mechanism for subsides and benefits is undoubtedly justifiable and the government has already spent almost Rs 10,000 crore on the project in which 90 crore Indians are estimated to have enrolled. For good or bad, therefore, it seems that the government has made up its mind that Aadhaar has to be used as part of the solution.

Which is what perhaps explains petitions by government agencies in Supreme Court, including the bizarre one by telecom regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India that terrorists will get mobile phone connections if Aadhar is not made mandatory. By referring it to the constitutional bench dealing with question of right to privacy, the apex court has done the right thing.

It is not unusual in our country for spin and hype to create a foggy haze over real issues and that probably seems to be the case here as well. But the growing clamour for privacy rights is piercing through this haze.

This means that legitimate questions about non-citizens and Aadhaar, privacy and data integrity need answers. How can, for instance, a tool purporting to improve delivery of benefits be plagued with many instances of fake entries?

The government needs to finally bring a bill in Parliament and start a long overdue debate on the subject and get the legislative sanction that such a project needs.

If Aadhar is to be effectively used to transform benefits and subsidy delivery, its various gaping flaws need to be fixed and plugged. It is imperative that the means to the ends be as justifiable as the ends themselves.

Rajeev Chandrasekhar is an independent member of Rajya Sabha and a technology entrepreneur.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in