NEW DELHI: The 12-digit biometric-based unique identity number is a “giant electronic mesh” and will turn country into a “surveillance state”, petitioners argued in Supreme Court on Wednesday as a five-judge constitution bench began hearing the batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhaar.
Senior advocate Shyam Divan, representing several petitioners, began his arguments saying that Aadhaar undermines the constitution as it restricted the rights and liberties of citizens.
“At its core, Aadhaar alters the relationship between the citizen and the state. It diminishes the status of the citizens. The state is empowered with a ‘switch’ by which it can cause the civil death of an individual. Where basic facility is linked to Aadhaar and one cannot live in society without an Aadhaar number, the switching off of Aadhaar completely destroys the individual,” he told the bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan. The bench is hearing 27 petitions challenging various aspects of the programme.
Divan argued the government has rolled out a programme that seeks to “tether every resident of India to an electronic leash” and enable the State to profile citizens, which will ultimately help it stifle dissent.
When Justice Chandrachud asked if a state could not compel citizens to have Aadhaar in public interest, Divan responded, “Then it becomes a pervasive society. We are governed by rule of law. You can’t carve out an exception. If you compel, then it becomes a surveillance society. This has huge ramifications. There is no safeguard that my data is safe.” He said the programme will “hollow out” the Constitution.
The petitioners alleged that the Aadhaar database tends to terrorize citizens, with the country becoming a totalitarian regime as there is no free consent in furnishing biometric information for Aadhaar. “A people’s Constitution is being sought to be converted into a State’s Constitution,” Divan said.
“From 2009 to 2016, Aadhaar enrollment continued without a statutory regime. There was no free consent. There was no opt out option.”Chief Justice Misra asked whether the Bill was sent to parliamentary standing committee, to which Divan clarified that this was not done.
Aadhaar a giant e-mesh, will make India a surveillance state
If allowed to roll out unimpeded, it will reduce citizens to servitude
A people’s constitution is being sought to be converted into a State’s constitution