It’s Confirmed, the Govt Misled Us About Aadhaar-Mobile Linking
Hey! Yes you! Are you an ordinary law-abiding citizen who reposes faith in the government, the judiciary and the Constitution of India?
Yes. Why do you ask?
Remember all those pesky messages and phone calls you kept getting from Vodafone, Airtel, etc, about how it was mandatory to link your mobile number with Aadhaar? Remember how they insisted that you needed to do this if you wanted to “CONTINUE ENJOYING YOUR MOBILE SERVICES”?
Of course, how could one forget? There were so many of those messages, and they made everyone so panicky that their numbers would be disconnected. Well, it’s a good thing I’m a law-abiding citizen and I followed the instructions.
Do you also remember how Union Law and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad insisted that the reason you needed to do this was because it was directed by the Supreme Court?
Oh yeah! It was so good of him to respond to common people on Twitter, wasn’t it? And once we knew that it was the Supreme Court which directed that it had to be done, everything was ok, of course. The Supreme Court wouldn’t order something unless it was absolutely necessary.
Sure, sure. It’s a pity then that the Supreme Court never said anything of the sort, right?
Too caught up to listen to the whole story? Listen to it here:
Wait, you really didn’t know that the Supreme Court never made any direction about linking Aadhaar to mobile numbers?
Of course not! But Ravi Shankar Prasad is a Union Minister! He wouldn’t mislead me and the general public! And the UIDAI even went public, saying the Supreme Court said so in some Lokniti case! Look at these:
Ah yes, the great Lokniti Foundation Case Jumla. Yeah, that’s a complete, deliberate misrepresentation of the Supreme Court’s order in that case.
NOOOO! That’s not possible! The Telecom and Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) rebutted Sucheta Dalal from Moneylife for saying that! See, they responded to her with this tweet, which said that the Department of Telecommunications only issued all of this for implementation of the Supreme Court’s order:
Nope, none of that is true. All that the Supreme Court said was that the government needed to put in place measures to verify mobile numbers. It never said that this had to be done only through Aadhaar – in fact, it specifically says that within a year from the date of the order (6 February 2017), a “similar verification” is to be completed.
What nonsense! Look, I’ve gone and found the Department of Telecommunication circular which told the telecom companies to do Aadhaar “re-verification”, ok? It clearly says that what the Supreme Court said in that Lokniti case “amounts to a direction”, and so they’re telling the telecom companies to link mobile numbers to Aadhaar.
A remarkable feat of misdirection, don’t you think? That this circular would be used to insist that the Supreme Court ordered this to be done, even though the Court never even said so.
See this is the problem with you journalists, always trying to question the government. Who told you the Supreme Court never said so?
The Supreme Court itself! Didn’t you see what Justice Chandrachud said on Wednesday during the main Aadhaar case hearings? The UIDAI counsel Rakesh Dwivedi was, very earnestly, saying how the mobile number-Aadhaar linking had been mandated by the Supreme Court, when Justice Chandrachud interrupted him, saying:
Justice Chandrachud and Justice Sikri then went on to say that:
So as you can see, the judges of the Supreme Court themselves have said that the Court never passed any order asking for mobile numbers to be linked.
Oh my god.
The government and statutory authorities issued multiple misleading statements about the supposed legal obligations for us to link Aadhaar to our mobile numbers, causing 71.24 crore people to link their numbers as of December 2017, and nobody knew?
Well..., there have been some of us who’ve been saying this for quite a while. I wrote about this here in The Quint back in September 2017 – to use my exact words, the claim that the Supreme Court directed the linking of mobile numbers and Aadhaar was “an alternative fact, ie about as true as a parent’s explanation to a three-year-old of where babies come from.”
Wait, so wasn’t it really embarrassing when the judges said this in court? Didn’t the government have to concede the point and apologise to the Court, to the petitioners, and to the Indian people?
Yeah no, that didn’t happen.
Dwivedi first said that the government only took the Supreme Court’ observations seriously (?), and when the judges once again told him that the Court’s observations didn’t amount to directions to link Aadhaar, he then did a complete Matrix-style evasion and claimed that TRAI had already recommended that linking should be done, and said that the government had the power to ask for this under the Telegraph Act.
Wait what? Doesn’t that circular say that the Department of Telecom has decided to do this after the Supreme Court’s directions? How could they still be trying to mislead us?
Unfortunately, that’s been the defining feature of the government’s behaviour when it comes to challenges of Aadhaar. They’ve obfuscated and made up entirely unreasonable arguments (remember how they argued that Indians don’t have a fundamental right to privacy, just to stall the cases in the Supreme Court in 2015?).
They’ve misrepresented the facts (remember all the stuff about how much money had been saved on Aadhaar which has been since debunked?), all the while pulling every dirty trick in the book (like designating the Aadhaar Act 2016 as a Money Bill to bypass the Rajya Sabha). And when they get caught, they still don’t own up.
Wait, they’ve really done stuff like this before when it comes to Aadhaar?
Of course they have. Last year, they got a bit of bad press for a circular making Aadhaar mandatory for death certificates. They then tried to clarify that it wasn’t mandatory, even though it still was. They’ve spent years insisting that biometric authentication failures aren’t a concern, relying on old numbers from a 2012 study. But when the UIDAI CEO finally gave out the numbers in the Supreme Court recently, it turned out that biometric authentication for government services fails at least 12 percent of the time! Did they say anything at all about any of this? Nope.
Woah. But surely they haven’t tried misleading the Supreme Court any other times, right?
Oh really? Did you not hear about how the Attorney-General KK Venugopal tried to tell the Court that Aadhaar enrolment needed less information than the US Social Security Number? Only for this faff to be countered immediately by Justice Chandrachud who had studied in the US, after all?
But do you know what the worst part of this all is?
How can this be any worse?
Well, all this stuff we’ve just talked about – the clear misrepresentation of the Lokniti order from 2017, the publicly misleading statements from Union Ministers and the UIDAI – it’s all been public knowledge for ages. Despite this, and despite the blatant violation of the Supreme Court’s orders from 2015 stopping the government from linking services to Aadhaar, the Supreme Court has yet to consider any of this as contempt of court.
And aren’t likely to in the future either, given how they let Dwivedi and the UIDAI go on the mobile-Aadhaar issue despite catching him red-handed.
That is worse.
Anyway, you have a nice day, ok?
Couldn’t you have just left me alone?