Aadhaar survives

The Aadhaar project has survived a fierce legal challenge. Ever since a nine-judge Bench ruled unanimously last year that privacy is a fundamental right, opinion began to gain ground that the unique identification programme was vulnerable in the face of judicial scrutiny. It was projected by sceptics, detractors and activists as an intrusion on citizens’ privacy, a byword for a purported surveillance system, a grand project to harvest personal data for commercial exploitation by private parties and profiling by the state. But the government has staved off the challenge by successfully arguing that it is essentially a transformative scheme primarily aimed at reaching benefits and subsidies to the poor and the marginalised. Four of the five judges on a Constitution Bench ruled that the law enabling the implementation of the programme does not violate the right to privacy of citizens; instead, the project empowers marginalised sections and procures dignity for them along with services, benefits and subsidies by leveraging the power of technology. In upholding the constitutional validity of Aadhaar and clarifying areas in which it cannot be made mandatory, the Supreme Court has restored the original intent of the programme: to plug leakages in subsidy schemes and to have better targeting of welfare benefits. Over the years, Aadhaar came to mean much more than this in the lives of ordinary people, acquiring the shape of a basic identity document that was required to access more and more services, such as birth and death certificates, SIM cards, school admissions, property registrations and vehicle purchases. A unique identity number, that could be availed on a voluntary basis and was conceived to eliminate the rampant fraud in the distribution of benefits, had threatened to morph — with the Centre’s tacit acceptance — into something that was mandatory for various aspects of life. The judgment narrows the scope of Aadhaar but provides a framework within which it can work. The majority opinion has sought to limit the import of the scheme to aspects directly related to welfare benefits, subsidies and money spent from the Consolidated Fund of India.

Source  :   https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/aadhaar-survives/article25052919.ece

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