Hours after the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of Aadhaar, the UIDAI termed the apex court’s judgment a victory. The UIDAI CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey told PTI that the 4:1 apex court judgment announced on Wednesday, 26 September, is in favour of Aadhaar.
Reading out the majority judgment on Aadhaar, Justice AK Sikri upheld the constitutional validity of the Centre's flagship scheme, but with conditions.
The apex court said private companies cannot insist on Aadhaar. It added that the national security exception for disclosure of Aadhaar information as per Section 33(2) has also been struck down.
Justice DY Chandrachud made a dissenting judgment declaring the Aadhaar scheme unconstitutional. However, it is Justice AK Sikri's judgment that will be upheld as two other judges of the five-judge bench have concurred with it.
The ‘Second Longest’ Case
A five-judge Constitution Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice AK Sikri, Justice AM Khanwilkar, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Ashok Bhushan had reserved the verdict on 10 May after hearing the petitions for over 38 days starting 17 January.
The bench had been informed by Attorney General KK Venugopal that this had become the "second longest" case in terms of days of hearing after the historic Kesavananda Bharati case of 1973.
The Kesavananda Bharati case was heard for five months and this matter continued for four-and-half months. This is the second longest hearing of a case in history,” Venugopal had told the bench.
The 'Key' Argument Against Aadhaar
A key argument against the Aadhaar scheme was that it was violative of the nine-judge bench verdict that had held that Right to Privacy is a fundamental right under the Constitution.
The Centre, the Unique Identificaiton Authority of India (UIDAI), the governments of Maharashtra and Gujarat and the RBI had argued in favour of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits And Services) Act, 2016 and were represented by the Attorney General, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, senior advocates Rakesh Dwivedi and Jayant Bhushan and lawyer Zoheb Hossain.
During the arguments, the Centre had strongly defended its decision to seed Aadhaar numbers with mobile phones, telling the top court that it could have been hauled up for contempt if the verification of mobile users was not undertaken by it.
However, the court had said that the government had misinterpreted its order and used it as a "tool" to make Aadhaar mandatory for mobile users.
Aadhaar Law Valid, Argues Centre
The SC had also not agreed prima facie with the government's contention that the Aadhaar law was correctly termed as a Money Bill by the Lok Sabha Speaker as it dealt with "targeted delivery of subsidies" for which funds came from the Consolidated Fund of India.
The counsel for one of the petitioners had termed Aadhaar as "an electronic leash" and said that the government could completely destroy an individual by "switching off" the 12-digit unique identifier number.
On the other hand, the Centre had said that the law was valid and allowed minimal invasion to ensure the right to life of millions of Indians by ensuring seamless delivery of subsidies, benefits and services to the poorest of the poor.
13 Stories That Ask – Are We Really Ready for Aadhaar, India?
The Aadhaar system has a number of glaring loopholes, with the UIDAI database within the easy reach of hackers, and user data being accessible by almost anyone, with little time, money, and effort.
However, like demonetisation and the ‘Digital India’ movement, which were both very ambitious, the bigger question is this: Is the world’s largest biometric database safe? And does it serve its purpose effectively?
These are some of the most unusual instances of Aadhaar misuse, irregularities, or failure to provide the same essential services it set out to, that raise the question, “Are we really ready for Aadhaar, India?”
Read full story here.
Aadhaar Verdict Likely at 10:45 am
The Supreme Court is likely to pronounce its verdict on Aadhaar's constitutionality at 10:45 am on Wednesday.
Slight delay due to the verdict on relook of 2006 Nagaraj judgment by another 5-judge bench in CJI's court.
Hope SC Rules in Favour of Aadhaar: Mukul Rohatgi
Former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who represented the government in the case earlier, said he “hoped the judgment was in favour of Aadhaar." He added that the government has made it clear that “data will be protected.”
The judgment will have a far reaching effect because Aadhaar is relevant for a large number of subsidies. It is also relevant to plug loot and waste that has happened. Data protection is very important and government has made it clear that it will protect the data. A law is also coming in this regard.Mukul Rohatgi, Former AG
Five-Judge Bench Assemble in Court Number 1
Bench comprising CJI Dipak Misra, Justices Chandrachud, Sikri, Khanwilkar and Bhushan assemble in court number one, to deliver judgment on Aadhaar validity shortly.
Justice AK Sikri Starts Pronouncement
Justice AK Sikri starts pronouncing his judgment, which is concurred by CJI Misra and Justice AM Khanwilkar.
Justices DY Chandrachud and A Bhushan have written separate judgments, reported Live Law.
Better to Be Unique Than to Be Best, Aadhaar is Unique: Justice Sikri
Reading his judgment on Aadhaar, Justice AK Sikri said that it is “better to be unique than being best; Aadhaar means Unique.”
He added that the UIDAI is established as statutory body, providing authentication.
“All residents are eligible to get Aadhaar. It can't be reassigned to anyone as it is unique,” Sikri observed.
There Is No Possibility of Obtaining Duplicate Aadhaar: Justice Sikri
Justice Sikri, reading out his 40-page judgment, said Aadhaar eliminates any chance of duplication, adding that it is fool proof.
“The court has observed that minimal data is collected for the purposes of establishing identity under Aadhaar. There's a fundamental difference between Aadhaar and other identity proofs. Aadhaar eliminates any chance of duplication,” Sikri observed.
Aadhaar Empowers Marginalised Sections By Giving Them Identity: Justice Sikri
Justice AK Sikri observed that Aadhaar “empowered marginalised sections by giving them identity.”
Should Court Apply Strict, Fair or Reasonable Scrutiny Standards: Justice Sikri
“Right to live with dignity is part of right to privacy. We've discussed the test of privacy, dignity and proportionality. Question is whether court should apply strict scrutiny standards or fair or reasonable standards?” observed Justice Sikri, reading out the majority judgment.
He added that human dignity was already a settled right from an individual's point of view, and that it discussed elaborately on the “dignity of an individual.”
Technology Has Taken Us Back to Thumb Impression: Justice Sikri
Justice AK Sikri also said that while education took us from ‘thumb impression to signature’, technology has taken us back to thumb impression.
National Security Exception Struck Down
National security exception for disclosure of Aaadhar information as per Section 33(1) and Section 33(2) struck down by judgment of Justice Sikri, reported Live Law.
What Are Sections 33 (1) & (2)?
33. (1) In case any demographic information of an Aadhaar number holder is found incorrect or changes subsequently, the Aadhaar number holder shall request the Authority to alter such demographic information in his record in the Central Identities Data Repository in such manner as may be specified by regulations.
(2) In case any biometric information of Aadhaar number holder is lost or changes subsequently for any reason, the Aadhaar number holder shall request the Authority to make necessary alteration in his record in the Center
Section 57 of of the Aadhaar Act permitting private entities to avail Aadhaar data was also struck down by judgment of Justice Sikri.
What Does Section 57 Say?
Nothing contained in this Act shall prevent the use of Aadhaar number for establishing the identity of an individual for any purpose, whether by the State or any body corporate or person, pursuant to any law, for the time being in force, or any contract to this effect: Provided that the use of Aadhaar number under this section shall be subject to the procedure and obligations under section 8 and Chapter VI.
Aadhaar Not Compulsory For School Admissions: SC
The Supreme Court observed that Aadhaar must not be made compulsory for school admission and school administration cannot make it mandatory. It should also not be made mandatory for CBSE, UGC and NEET exams.
Don't Give Aadhaar to Illegal Immigrants: Supreme Court
The Supreme Court directed the government to not give Aadhaar to illegal immigrants.
Aadhaar Act Does Not Violate Privacy of Citizens: SC
The Supreme Court observed that as of today they do not find anything in Aadhaar Act which “violates right to privacy of individual citizen.”
Bank Accounts Need Not be Mandatorily Linked to Aadhaar: SC
The Supreme Court observed that bank accounts need not be mandatorily linked Aadhaar.
Aadhaar Linking Not Mandatory for Mobile Connections: SC
No mobile company can demand mandatory linking of Aadhaar card to their connections, reported Live Law.
Rights Should Not Be Denied Due to Lack of Aadhaar: SC
The Supreme Court strongly observed that no person should be denied rights due to the lack of Aadhaar.
Mandatory to Link Aadhaar to PAN: SC
The Supreme Court said that it was mandatory for Aadhaar card to be linked to PAN card.
Decision to Treat Aadhaar Bill As Money Bill Can Be Subject to Judicial Review: Justice Chandrachud
Reading out his opinion, Justice DY Chandrachud said the decision of the Lok Sabha speaker to treat the Aadhaar Bill as Money Bill can be subject to judicial review.
In his dissent, he said that Article 110 had specific grounds for Money Bill and Aadhaar law went beyond these grounds.
“Aadhaar law is unconstitutional on the very ground that it was passed as Money Bill," said Justice Chandrachud.
Aadhaar Has Serious Problems About Exclusion: Justice Chandrachud
Justice Chandrachud, reading out his judgment, said Aadhaar has “serious problems” about exclusion, and the right of the marginalised to benefits cannot be made to depend on Aadhaar.
Difficult to Live in Contemporary India Without Aadhaar: Justice Chandrachud
Justice Chandrachud said that it is “very difficult” to live in contemporary India without Aadhaar as all schemes have been linked with it, Justice Chandrachud says while declaring his minority Aadhaar scheme unconstitutional.
"Aadhaar violates the right to privacy as it could possibly lead to profiling of persons and voters," said Chandrachud.
Aadhaar Reduces A Person to Just 12 Digits: Justice Chandrachud
Justice Chandrachud said that Aadhaar negated pluralistic identities and has “reduced” a person to just 12 digits. He demanded that the government first bring out a proper data protection regime.
He also added that linking of Aadhaar with PAN was unconstitutional. He said the consequences of not giving the Aadhaar number as “draconian.”
He asked the telecom operators to delete all data they have collected from users, reported Live Law.
Justice Ashok Bhushan Begins Reading Judgment
Justice Ashok Bhushan, begins reading his judgment. He says he “broadly agrees” with the judgment of Justice Sikri which is the majority judgment.
However, Bhushan said that “rightful beneficiaries” should not be denied services, subsidies, benefits.
Adding that Aadhaar has been widely accepted, Bhushan said he was sure that steps will be taken to minimise the mismatch.
Watch: Advocate Prashant Bhushan Addresses Media on Aadhaar Verdict
Former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee too welcomed the verdict.
Remarkable SC Verdict on Aadhaar Validity: AG Venugopal
Attorney General KK Venugopal hailed the Supreme Court verdict on the constitutionality of Aadhaar, by calling it a “remarkable judgment.”
“I am very happy with the judgment. It is a landmark and remarkable judgment,” said Venugopal to ANI.
SC Has Put an End to Mass Surveillance: Kapil Sibal
Congress leader Kapil Sibal said that by striking down Section 57 of Aadhaar Act, the Supreme Court has put an end to the “mass surveillance exercise.”
Aadhaar Verdict Big Victory for Pro-Poor Modi Govt: BJP
The BJP described the Supreme Court judgment on Aadhaar as a big victory for the "pro-poor Modi government", saying the apex court has upheld the constitutional validity of the scheme and asserted that it does not violate privacy.
Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Sambit Patra also hit back at the Congress after it projected the verdict as a slap on the face of the ruling party, saying the order has in fact exposed the opposition party.
“The Congress favoured middlemen while the Modi government brought Aadhaar to ensure that benefits are given directly to people,” Patra said.
That is why, Patra added, the Congress had moved the apex court against it.
Watch: Welcome SC Verdict on Aadhaar, Says Arun Jaitley
Welcoming the decision of the Supreme Court on the Aadhaar matter, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley dubbed the verdict as a “historic judgment”, which shows that the “concept of the unique ID number has been accepted by judicial review”.
Jaitley further attacked the Congress, saying:
'For BJP, Aadhaar is a Tool of Oppression and Surveillance': Rahul Gandhi
Taking to Twitter after the Aadhaar verdict, Congress president Rahul Gandhi thanked the Supreme Court “for supporting the Congress vision” for Aadhaar and protecting India.
Niti Aayog CEO Welcomes Aadhaar Verdict as a "Good and Progressive Judgment"
Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant welcomed the Aadhaar verdict as a “good and progressive judgment”.
UIDAI Terms SC Judgment on Aadhaar a Victory
The UIDAI has termed the Supreme Court judgment on Aadhaar a victory.
The UIDAI CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey told PTI that the 4:1 apex court judgment announced on Wednesday is in favour of Aadhaar.
It is 4:1 judgment in favour of Aadhaar. The court has declared Aadhaar constitutionally valid. It is a money bill. It can be used for PAN card. It empowers poor and marginalised sections. Aadhaar can be used for subsidies and government schemes so that there is no leakage of government funds. It can be used for income tax so that tax evasion and black money can be curbed.UIDAI CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey to PTI
'This is a Landmark Judgment in Favour of Aadhaar': Nandan Nilekani
Former UIDAI chairperson Nandan Nilekani called the SC’s verdict a “landmark judgment in favour of Aadhaar”.
More than just opining on the constitutionality of the act, the Supreme Court has unequivocally validated the founding principles for Aadhaar... The resident was once again recognised as being at the heart of the project, and they have gained new rights that help them assert their ownership over their data. Aadhaar has undergone the ultimate scrutiny in the highest court, and a lot of recommendations have been incorporated. Through the democratic process of discussion and debate, we have created a better and stronger Aadhaar together.Former UIDAI chairperson Nandan Nilekani