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.


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Sunday, May 7, 2017

11270 - Supreme Test - Indian Express



Aadhaar-related cases could tell us whether our jurisprudence is fit for an age of technology

Written by Pratap Bhanu Mehta | Published:May 6, 2017 12:05 am

It will also be a test case for whether the checks and balances of our constitutional scheme stand, or whether they will get blown away at the slightest whiff of executive power.

The challenge to Section 139 AA of the Income Tax Act, otherwise known as the Aadhaar/Pan challenge, is an immensely consequential case for the credibility of the Supreme Court. This is not the occasion to rehearse the specific arguments at stake. Some of the concerns have been expressed in a previous column. The legal scholar Gautam Bhatia’s summaries are a wonderfully accessible introduction to the arguments presented in court. But it is important to remember why this case will have huge ramifications for the institutional credibility of the Supreme Court. It will also be a test case for whether the checks and balances of our constitutional scheme stand, or whether they will get blown away at the slightest whiff of executive power.

First, the court has created a credibility crisis for itself. Its mendacious evasions on the issue of privacy rights emanating from Aadhaar have eroded its credibility. In a context where the Supreme Court has found time to take over entire private bodies like the BCCI and run them, the idea that it did not have time to conduct hearings since October 2015 on an issue of such vital importance is frankly scandalous. That delay tied the petitioners’ hand even in the case at hand, where they could not invoke the privacy-based argument. Some deft lawyerly ingenuity has injected those arguments in this case anyway. But it is an Orwellian conception of constitutional justice when petitioners cannot make arguments because ostensibly, those arguments are being heard, except there are no hearings.
Second, the state has taken an aggressively anti-rights stand, one that goes way beyond what even any moderate case for well-defined uses of Aadhaar would warrant. The idea that there is no right to privacy, or that we have no absolute right over our bodies is, in the form in which the state deploys them, chilling. We can cut some rhetorical slack for the fact that this could be a way of countering some extreme arguments that would make even reasonable administrative measures impossible. But even plausible limitations to a right, or a claim that a particular administrative measure does not actually violate a right, depend upon specifying the nature and content of the right in the first place. The state is blithely acting as if no rights were at stake. By refusing to clarify the nature and scope of these rights, the court is abetting the state’s presumptuousness. This anti-rights aggression by the state, its short shrift to protections, is actually weakening trust in the state.

Third, the delay in sorting out matters relating to Aadhaar has given the executive carte blanche to go ahead and change the facts on the ground to the point where we might be just handed a fait accompli. Governance by fait accompli is neither just, nor legitimate. The Supreme Court’s own authority and orders are being subverted in the notifications for the use of Aadhaar; the amendment to the IT Act is a backdoor means of getting what the Aadhaar Act does not seem to provide. The Supreme Court needs to decide whether its word means anything at all.
The substantive merits of Aadhaar can be debated. But the most disturbing thing about the manner in which Aadhaar has been enacted is the disregard for all institutional proprieties. Aadhaar seems to be making all institutions niraadhaar. For a long time, it operated without governing legislation. Then, the legislation came in the form of a money bill that has, in effect, nullified every principle of parliamentary accountability that we know of. It has also set a dangerous precedent which is now being deployed with impunity in legislation. Historically, the courts have created legitimacy for themselves, not by meddling in policy and governance or populist grandstanding, but by making sure that the institutional forms of a democracy are respected. The courts’ increasingly monumental silence on these issues is mystifying.

Fourth, the court has come under a lot of criticism that the sophistication of its “policy jurisprudence” falls short of the requirements of a modern economy and regulatory state. Some of this criticism may be exaggerated. But there is reason to think that the court’s understanding of complex economic and regulatory issues needs to evolve. But we are now entering a world of unprecedented technological advances. And here, the gap between the needs of our time and our laws may be even wider. Many technological changes will enable new economic possibilities. These will also have a far-reaching impact on the nature of surveillance, the threats we face, our deepest sense of self, and our moral vocabulary. They are creating new forms of power relations and vulnerability that will severely test traditional institutions.

The Aadhaar-related cases are the most significant test of whether our jurisprudence is fit for an age of technology, whether it has the care, sophistication and nuance to measure up to the challenges of our era. These cases give the Supreme Court an opportunity to establish itself as an intellectual leader in this area. It can choose to pick up the mantle or become an exemplar of intellectual abdication.

Finally, one of the court’s functions is the articulation of a constitutional morality that cuts through moral cant. In the absence of that constitutional leadership, the vacuum is filled by all kinds of specious arguments. Two arguments are particularly troubling. One is the implicit contrast being set up in the Aadhaar debate between the rights of the poor and the rights of the rich: Aadhaar for poor service delivery recipients, not for the privileged. The rich and poor are differently situated. But the core issues are similar: Aadhaar was supposed to be an enabler, not a means of denying rights. What is the redress where the poor are being denied rights? The accountability of the authentication process affects everybody. This case should be about common rights as citizens, not about different classes of people. The second is the culturalist cant going around: “Privacy is not an Indian idea”, or that foreign and comparative law is not applicable for this reason.

Of course there are cultural variations. But the idea that challenges emanating from the powers of a modern state, protecting people against the denial of rights, surveillance, data sharing, invasions of the body, can be settled by culturalist arguments is plain nonsense. The Supreme Court needs to call this bluff before it becomes legal common sense.

Not since ADM Jabalapur has the Supreme Court faced such a crisis of credibility. The urgency and clarity of the court in the Aadhaar cases will decide whether it can overcome that crisis.


The writer is president, CPR Delhi and contributing editor, ‘The Indian Express’