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, August 3, 2017

11690 - Ambiguities of Aadhaar - Indian Express

Government’s position on right to privacy has been inconsistent


Written by Prasanna S
Published:August 2, 2017 12:05 am

In Aadhaar, the government’s tendency to take self-contradicting positions is not limited to the right to privacy.

The central government has justifiably come under some criticism for taking conflicting positions before the apex court on the question of whether Indian citizens enjoy a fundamental right to privacy under the Constitution. In the Aadhaar case, which is a batch of more than a dozen petitions challenging the constitutionality of the Aadhaar project and the 2016 Aadhaar Act, the government argued against the existence of a fundamental right to privacy despite more than 40 years of jurisprudence developed by the court holding it to be so. For that, it has relied on some parts of the judgments in an eight-judge bench decision of the court in M.P. Sharma v. Satish Chandra (1954) and a six-judge bench decision in Kharak Singh v. State of UP (1962).

Even as this question has now been referred to a nine-judge bench, the government has taken the opposite position in the Whatsapp case: Arguing that personal data, and consequently privacy, is an extension of life and personal liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. This is but one in a series of paradoxes that have punctuated the government’s positions.

In 2011, when the Ministry of Law and Justice referred the question of the continuing operation of the Aadhaar project without a law, both the then Attorney-General Goolam Vahanvati and an advisor in the department had stated in their opinion that the right to privacy is a fundamental right under Article 21. This position was repeated in the government’s counter-affidavits filed in the Aadhaar petitions before the Supreme Court between 2012 and 2014. In 2015, the central government began to argue against a fundamental right to privacy. Around the same time, its arguments in the criminal defamation case were grounded on the fundamental right to privacy. There, it succeeded in its attempt to save Section 499 of the IPC that provided for defamation as a criminal offence from being struck down as being in violation of the right to free speech.

In Aadhaar, the government’s tendency to take self-contradicting positions is not limited to the right to privacy. 

First, it has argued for Aadhaar as a project of inclusion on the one hand, even as, on the other hand, all the statistics claimed in support of the project seek to prove exclusion or “savings”. 

Second, it has argued that the Aadhaar project has given millions of Indians an identity and made them visible to the state even as it defends its porous verification procedures saying that only 0.03 per cent of the enrollees were without prior identity documents.

Third, following many incidents of “data leaks” in which government websites were shown to be leaking personal information, including Aadhaar numbers of people, the UIDAI is reported to have played down the dangers of such leaks. However, the Act prescribes a punishment of imprisonment up to three years for such supposedly innocuous disclosure. 

Fourth, it has been argued that basic demographic and biometric data collected by private enrolment agencies is not so sensitive as to have any personal security implications. At the same time, UIDAI had been turning down RTI requests on the sanctity of UIDAI data on a legal exemption that relates to the sovereignty and integrity of India and national security. 

Fifth, there has been a tacit acknowledgement of the danger of storing one’s religion in a database such as Aadhaar’s when the Act included a specific prohibition on that. However, the law sanctions the storage of one’s name and fathers’ name which together can be used determine religion with near certainty.
This enumeration is by no means exhaustive. Some of these inconsistencies are subtle, but others like the government’s position on the fundamental right to privacy are less so. Even on pure questions of law, one hopes that dispassionate and consistent reason, rather than convenience in the context of a specific case determines its positions before the court. More so when citizens’ fundamental rights are involved.

The writer, a Delhi-based lawyer, has assisted and appeared for some of the petitioners challenging the Aadhaar project