Aadhaar is a '12-digit unique identification number issued by the Unique
Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to Indian residents'Aadhaar
represents a distinct 12-digit identification code granted by the Unique
Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to Indian inhabitants. This number
relies on biometric and population-related information like fingerprints and
iris patterns, serving as evidence of both identity and residence. The
introduction of the Aadhaar system aimed to establish a strong and
all-encompassing identification method, enhancing the efficiency of service
provision and welfare allocation throughout India.
Uses of Aadhaar
Aadhaar plays a pivotal role in simplifying the dispersion of government welfare
programs and subsidies. Its purpose is to guarantee that entitlements reach
their designated recipients without intermediaries, thereby minimizing instances
of misappropriation and unethical practices. The government furthers financial
inclusion by integrating Aadhaar with bank accounts, thus facilitating easier
access to formal financial services for those with limited banking exposure.
Aadhaar functions as a digital identification for individuals across various
transactions and services, encompassing activities such as initiating bank
accounts, seeking government provisions, and obtaining mobile connections.
Moreover, it's employed to connect and authenticate income tax returns, with the
overarching aim of curbing tax evasion and augmenting adherence to tax
The Aadhaar Act
The 'Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits, and
Services) Act, 2016' is a law that regulates the gathering, retention, and
utilization of Aadhaar-related data. It establishes a legal structure for the
distinctive identification system, defining the rights and duties of both the
government and Aadhaar holders.
The term 'Aadhaar number' alludes to an identification code allocated to an
individual by Section 3 of the Act. By obviating the necessity of presenting
multiple documents for identity verification, using Aadhaar as an identification
credential enables beneficiaries to access their privileges promptly,
conveniently, and seamlessly. It alleviates the inconvenience of repeatedly
furnishing evidence of identity whenever a resident seeks to avail of services,
advantages, or subsidies.
Criticisms of Aadhaar
Although the Aadhaar system offers advantages, it has encountered significant
criticism due to apprehensions surrounding privacy and data security. Concerns
revolve around the potential for unauthorized entry to biometric and personal
data. Cases have arisen where technical problems and inadequate infrastructure
have marginalized certain groups, causing them to miss out on vital services.
The discussion regarding whether Aadhaar ought to be obligatory or optional for
accessing services has sparked dispute, prompting inquiries about personal
freedoms and decisions.
Key Provisions of the Aadhaar Act
The Act allows residents to voluntarily enroll for an Aadhaar number by
submitting their biometric and demographic information to the UIDAI. It enables
government agencies to verify the identity before delivering or disbursing
subsidies. There were instances where government authorities made Aadhaar
mandatory for various services. This led to debates over the infringement of
civil liberties and the right to choose.
The Act includes provisions
safeguarding the privacy and security of Aadhaar holders' information. It
restricts the sharing of Aadhaar data without the consent of the individual and
imposes penalties for unauthorized disclosure or misuse of such data. The act
establishes the concept of a unique identification number for each resident of
India. It also defines the demographic information that can be collected and
stored, such as name, address, date of birth, and gender.
It allows the
collection and storage of biometric data, including fingerprints and iris scans,
for the purpose of generating and authenticating Aadhaar numbers. Critics
have raised concerns about the security and potential misuse of biometric
Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd) & Anr. v. Union of India & Ors.
(2017), In the
case, a bench comprising nine judges in the Indian Supreme Court established
that the 'Right to Privacy' is a fundamental right safeguarded by the Indian
Constitution. This ruling laid the groundwork for subsequent legal challenges
against the Aadhaar Act, and it prompted considerations about potential effects
on civil liberties. The Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of the
Aadhaar Act while invalidating specific provisions that permitted private firms
to access Aadhaar data and mandated the linkage of Aadhaar with bank accounts
and mobile numbers.
Instances where information could be disclosed:
For reasons of national security, a Joint Secretary within the central
government is authorized to issue a directive for disclosing (i) the Aadhaar
number, (ii) biometric data (including iris scans, fingerprints, and other
specified biological attributes), (iii) demographic details, and (iv) a
The Oversight Committee, comprised of the Cabinet Secretary, along with the
Secretaries of Legal Affairs and Electronics and Information Technology, will
evaluate this decision, with its legitimacy remaining effective for a span of
On the court's order:
- an individual's Aadhaar number,
- a photograph, and
- demographic information may be divulged.
Impact on Civil Liberties
The implementation of the Act has sparked debates and controversies regarding
its impact on civil liberties. One of the most significant concerns is the
potential invasion of privacy. The centralized storage of biometric and
demographic data raises fears about unauthorized access, identity theft, and
mass surveillance, which could lead to violations of individual privacy rights.
There have been reports of the exclusion of marginalized groups due to technical
glitches or lack of infrastructure for Aadhaar authentication. This raises
questions about equitable access to services and welfare benefits for all
Its implementation has faced several legal challenges, with landmark cases
addressing the right to privacy and data protection. The Aadhaar Act's impact on
civil liberties has been a subject of debate, with concerns raised over privacy,
exclusion, and mandatory enrollment. Striking a balance between state interests
and individual rights remains a complex challenge for policymakers and the
judiciary as they continue to evaluate and refine the Aadhaar system to ensure
equitable and secure governance for all citizens in India.
- 'Initial analysis of Indian Supreme Court decision on Aadhaar' (26th September 2018) Privacy International
https://privacyinternational.org/long-read/2299/initial-analysis-indian-supreme-court-decision-aadhaar accessed 6th August 2023
- Reetika Khera, 'The Different Ways in Which Aadhaar Infringes on Privacy' (19th July 2017) The Wire
https://thewire.in/government/privacy-aadhaar-supreme-court accessed 6th August 2023
- The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery Of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016. PDF accessed 28th October 2023.
- Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd) Vs Union of India (2017) 10 SCC 1
- Bobins Abraham, 'Now That The Aadhaar Bill Is Cleared By The Parliament, The Government Has A Powerful Tool To Spy On You' (March 17 2016) India Times
https://www.indiatimes.com/news/india/aadhaar-could-become-the-government-s-gateway-to-all-your-information-here-is-everything-you-need-to-know-252176.html?cv=1 accessed 8th August 2023
- Vrinda Bhandari, Renuka Sane "A Critique Of The Aadhaar Legal Framework" JSTOR Vol. 31, No. 1 (2019),pp. 72-97 (26 pages)