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TRIBUNE EDIT-Upholding Aadhaar Restricting the project to matters of State

September 27, 2018 05:49 AM


Upholding Aadhaar
Restricting the project to matters of State
The Supreme Court has upheld most of the provisions of the Aadhaar Act thus avoiding the fate of telecom and coal licences where its wholesale cancellation approach had sent both sectors into the NPA shoebox. In Aadhaar at stake was the taxpayer’s money in the project as well as his right to adequate privacy. Both seem to have been preserved. Aadhaar’s designers walk away with bouquets after the court ruled out profiling because of inbuilt safeguards. The 4-1 majority judgment also ruled out the possibility of obtaining a duplicate Aadhaar card, was satisfied with the adequacy of defence mechanisms for authentication and felt the data obtained was minimal while benefits, especially to the marginalised, large.

But for the political executive that was muscular, proactive and overbearing in trying to make it mandatory in all services, the order should serve as timely catnip. Aadhaar as a project will survive but only in matters of state-government welfare schemes and PAN but not for school admissions, banking and mobile services. The striking down of Sections 33 and 57 and the reading down of Sections 33 (1) and 33 (2) was very nearly an endorsement of the Rajya Sabha’s concerns that were pointedly overlooked while packaging the Aadhaar legislation as a money bill.

Now that Aadhaar survives in a watered down, truncated version, the executive needs to follow up appropriately. As a first step, Aadhaar cards should be delinked from mobile connections and bank accounts, which the court has said was unconstitutional. Hopefully, the government’s narrow escape with regard to the money bill approach will dissuade it from taking this route again to avoid going through the test in Rajya Sabha. Court adjudications at the end of the day are a matter of judgment and the executive needs to heed the dissenting opinion, especially the warning that the absence of an independent regulatory framework compromises data protection. As for the ‘right to privacy’ zealots, some of their assumptions and apprehensions were, in hindsight, overblown. But thanks to their perseverance, a balance was struck.


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