Aadhaar Empowers Those On Margins, Says Top Court, Order Being Delivered

Petitioners said Aadhaar -- built on a mammoth biometric database comprising fingerprints and iris scans -- cannot be made mandatory.

The government had made Aadhaar compulsory for a host of services and welfare measures

Highlights

  • The verdict on a clutch of 27 petitions will be pronounced today
  • The top court had reserved the verdict in May after a marathon hearing
  • Hearing in the case had started in January and went on for 38 days
New Delhi: A decision on whether Aadhaar, or the national identity card, violates the Constitution, will be declared by five senior most judges of the Supreme Court today. For a record 38 days, the Supreme Court heard some 27 petitions that had challenged the constitutional validity of Aadhaar and called it a violation of the right to privacy of citizens.

Following are the top 10 developments in this big story:

  1. Over one billion Indians have already signed up for Aadhaar, set up to be a secure form of digital identification for citizens to be used for access to government services and welfare schemes.

  2. The 12-digit Unique Identification Number was declared compulsory for services including bank accounts, PAN cards, cellphone services, passport and even driving licenses.

  3. It was made the overarching proof of identity and residence, above all other identity proofs.

  4. But as it was rolled out, there were concerns about privacy, data security and recourse for citizens in the face of data leaks.

  5. Petitioners said Aadhaar -- built on a mammoth biometric database comprising fingerprints and iris scans -- cannot be made mandatory. 

  6. The huge Aadhaar database can easily be compromised, petitioners had said, pointing out that a law that "impacts human life can't remain a law".

  7. The Centre had defended Aadhaar on several grounds - the biggest being that it ensured proper distribution of benefits to millions and prevented siphoning of funds. Aadhaar data is safe and cannot be breached, insisted the government and the Aadhaar authority UIDAI.

  8. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also defended the system, saying Aadhaar represented the march of technology and those opposing it "have lagged behind in technology -- either they cannot understand or are purposely spreading lies". 

  9. Hearings in the case started in January and went on for 38 days - making it the second longest after the Keshavananda Bharti case, which questioned if parliament's power to amend the Constitution was unlimited, to the extent of taking away all fundamental rights. The hearing went on for five months in 1973.

  10. Last year, the Supreme Court had ruled that the right to privacy is an "intrinsic part of life and personal liberty", which is guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution.

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