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Aadhaar: Breach of civil rights?

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Aadhaar: Breach of civil rights?
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The Supreme Court has on Tuesday expressed its concern over the state government’s insistence on making Aadhaar cards mandatory to extend the social welfare schemes to the citizens stating that the governments were flouting its order.

The apex Court has asked the states not to insist on Aadhaar until the constitutional validity of the scheme is decided by it. In its September 23, 2013 interim order, it has also said that nobody should be denied any facilities and benefits or ‘suffer’ for not having the card. The Aadhaar card, issued by Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI,) is a twelve digit individual identification number that incorporate all the personal details of an individual serving as a proof of identity and address anywhere in the country. The Court was hearing a plea filed by Karnatak’s former High Court Justice K S Puttaswamy who approached the court in 2012 saying that the Aadhaar scheme was ‘unconstitutional as the biometric data collected under it was an incursion and transgression of individual privacy’. Justice Puttaswamy, in his PIL, has also sought a stay on the implementation of the scheme. The Centre argued that rolling back the scheme was difficult and that it would adversely affect the government’s efforts to eradicate poverty. Attorney-general Mukul Rohatgi told the bench that about 70 crore citizens have already been covered under the Aadhaar scheme with subsidy schemes linked to the card and that the government had already spent Rs 5000 crore on the scheme and several social welfare programs. Whatever the case, it wouldnt be able to justify the Centre’s move for infringing the fundamental rights of the people by literally intruding into their privacy.

The Court had warned about the intrusion of the government into the private lives of the individuals during the controversial Maneka Gandhi case. The apex Court had always insisted not to follow Aadhaar card as a mandatory document whenever the matter came before it. The UPA government which mooted the scheme had strongly defended it saying that it was essential for good governance and its transparent implementation. The BJP, however, had opposed the project then. But the present NDA government apparently shows much enthusiasm to implement the scheme. The Aadhaar, since its instigation, has been alleged as a tool to pry into the personal lives of the citizens. Article 21 of the Constitution of India guarantees the right to live which when broadly expanded also means the right to privacy. The government move is therefore anti-democratic and akin to fascism. It had neglected all the progressive outlooks evolved around the civil rights and privacy of citizens in the past years.

It was only after the controversy erupted that the political and corporate interests and hidden agenda behind the scheme came to light. Questions also arise over the power of UIDAI that doesn’t have a legal backing, to collect the biometric data of the citizens. Even though retina scanning and fingerprint sensing are part of the scheme, no details of biometrics are provided. It clearly proves that the move is plainly to deceive the people. There is also no guarantee that the personal data wouldn’t be leaked to any private agencies. The attempts of the government poses a threat to individual freedom, privacy and the right to live with dignity. Therefore the Court should re-analyse the case in detail and prevent the anti-democratic and fascist moves of the present government.

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