The Aadhaar Act was passed in 2016 with the aim of creating a unique
identification system for all Indian residents. The system is based on biometric
data, including fingerprints and iris scans, and assigns each individual a
12-digit Aadhaar number. The government has argued that the Aadhaar system is
necessary to streamline the delivery of welfare programs and reduce fraud.
However, the Aadhaar Act has faced significant criticism from civil liberties
groups and privacy advocates, who argue that it poses a threat to individual
privacy and could be used for surveillance purposes.
Some Of The Key Concerns About The Aadhaar Act's Impact On Privacy Include:
- Collection of biometric data:
The Aadhaar system requires individuals to provide their biometric data,
including fingerprints and iris scans, in order to obtain an Aadhaar number.
This has raised concerns about the security of this data and the potential
for misuse or theft. There have been several instances of Aadhaar data
breaches, including one in which the personal information of more than a
billion Aadhaar holders was reportedly leaked.
- Mandatory linking to services:
The government has made it mandatory for individuals to link their Aadhaar
numbers to various services, including bank accounts, mobile phone numbers,
and PAN cards (used for income tax purposes). Critics argue that this
violates individuals' privacy and creates the potential for surveillance.
- Lack of informed consent:
Some individuals have reported being coerced into providing their biometric
data in order to obtain an Aadhaar number. This raises concerns about the
lack of informed consent and the potential for abuse.
- Lack of transparency:
The government has been criticized for lack of transparency in the Aadhaar
system. For example, the process by which Aadhaar numbers are assigned is
not publicly disclosed, and there have been reports of discrepancies and
errors in the system.
In 2017, the Supreme Court of India issued a landmark ruling on the Aadhaar
Act and its impact on privacy rights. The court declared that the right to
privacy is a fundamental right under the Indian Constitution, and examined the
Aadhaar Act in light of this right.
The court found that some provisions of the Aadhaar Act did indeed infringe on
the right to privacy. Specifically, it struck down a provision that allowed
private companies to use Aadhaar data for authentication purposes. It also found
that the government could not require citizens to link their Aadhaar numbers to
various services, as this would violate their right to privacy.
However, the court upheld the constitutionality of the Aadhaar Act itself,
stating that the government had a legitimate interest in establishing a unique
identification system and that the act had sufficient safeguards in place to
protect privacy. The court also held that Aadhaar could be used for targeted
delivery of welfare programs, as long as individuals' privacy was protected.
Since the Supreme Court's ruling, there have been ongoing debates about the
Aadhaar Act and its impact on privacy rights in India. Some critics argue that
the act still poses a threat to privacy, and have called for further reforms and
transparency in the Aadhaar system. Others argue that Aadhaar is necessary for
efficient delivery of welfare programs, and that the government has taken
sufficient steps to protect individuals' privacy.
Several Case Laws:
Written By: Santhosh R
Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) v. Union of India (2017): This case, also known as the Aadhaar-PAN case, challenged the government's
decision to make Aadhaar linking mandatory for PAN cards (used for income
tax purposes). The Supreme Court ruled that while Aadhaar could be used for
targeted delivery of welfare programs, it could not be made mandatory for
other purposes, such as PAN cards.
Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) v. Union of India (2018): This case, also known as the Aadhaar-privacy case, examined the
constitutionality of the Aadhaar Act itself. The Supreme Court held that the
right to privacy is a fundamental right under the Indian Constitution, and
that the Aadhaar Act could potentially infringe on this right. However, the
court ultimately upheld the constitutionality of the act, stating that it
had sufficient safeguards in place to protect privacy.
Binoy Viswam v. Union of India (2021): This case challenged the government's decision to make Aadhaar linking
mandatory for social media accounts. The Supreme Court declined to issue an
interim order to stay the decision, but noted that the government must
ensure that individuals' privacy is protected.
Lokniti Foundation v. Union of India (2021): This case challenged the government's decision to allow private companies to
access Aadhaar data for authentication purposes. The Delhi High Court ruled
that this provision of the Aadhaar Act was unconstitutional and violated
individuals' right to privacy.
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