NEW DELHI: On day 5 of the Supreme Court’s hearing on whether the Aadhaar card is mandatory or voluntary, privacy advocates quoted from the literature on the website of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).
“Even today, the UIDAI website says that every citizen is entitled to voluntarily obtain Aadhaar. The authority, which is a creature of the Aadhaar Act, is saying it is voluntary," senior advocate Shyam Divan stressed.
Divan is representing three petitioners who are challenging the government’s decision to make the Aadhaar number mandatory for filing income tax returns from July.
Divan presented his argument a day after attorney-general Mukul Rohatgi stuck unyieldingly to the government’s stance that the Aadhaar number is indeed a mandatory requirement for access to many state services and that recent leaks of Aadhaar details were no big deal.
The thrust of the privacy advocates’ presentation that the insistence on Aadhaar is an intrusion into the social and political liberties of citizens. “If we fail here, there will be a tremendous compromise of civil liberties,” Divan told the bench, comprising justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan.
Divan said no country calling itself democratic has implemented anything like the Aadhaar regime the BJP-led government is bent upon imposing on the nation. It would turn India into a surveillance state in which a person can be tracked and remain under electronic watch throughout his life.
The senior advocate also sought to puncture Rohatgi’s argument to the judges on Tuesday that leakage of Aadhaar data was a remote possibility and such leaks that have happened were not of the biometrics but just the bare numbers.
Divan said the entire process of enrolling for Aadhaar was full of holes and vulnerable to leakage. The enrollers of Aadhaar who are collecting data and biometrics from citizens were private parties and there was serious threat of misuse or leakage of data, he said. "There are cases where such information has been commercially sold.”
“The law says the life and body are paramount and if the fingerprints of an individual are stolen, it might end his identity."
What the UIDAI website says
Aadhaar number is a 12-digit random number issued by the UIDAI to the residents of India after satisfying the verification process laid down by the Authority. Any individual, irrespective of age and gender, who is a resident of India, may voluntarily enrol to obtain Aadhaar number.