The government’s doublespeak and constitutional fraud on Aadhaar, the 12-digit “unique” biometrics-linked identification number, continues. First, after passing the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits, and Services) Act as a Money Bill on the false grounds that Aadhaar enables welfare, it encouraged rampant commercial use of citizens’ data. Now, when the Supreme Court has reined in Aadhaar by striking down Section 57 of the 2016 Act which permitted the use of Aadhaar by private entities, the government is amending laws to again allow private, commercial use of citizens’ Aadhaar-related data.
The Union Government has listed for introduction in the Lok Sabha tomorrow (January 2, 2019) the Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018, in the Lok Sabha. There are serious concerns with this Bill as it violates Supreme Court orders as well as citizens’ fundamental rights:
- The Bill is in contravention of SC judgment – The Supreme Court in its judgment dated 26.09.2018 in Justice K.S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India (the Aadhaar judgment) in WP Civil No. 494 of 2012 explicitly prohibited use of Aadhaar by private parties by declaring Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act, 2016, as unconstitutional.This section provided grounds for Aadhaar-based authentication by private entities as well. The present Bill proposes amendments to the Aadhaar Act, Telegraph Act and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act which will circumvent the SC judgment, and allow the continued use of Aadhaar-based e-KYC authentication by private entities for mobile and banking services, respectively.
- Bill may allow private entities to continue to hold Aadhaar data in disregard of SC judgment – After the SC judgment, private entities are no longer allowed to maintain any Aadhaar-related data records whatsoever. While the petitioners have been trying to push for compliance on this, the government’s latest move may encourage the continued collection of citizens’ data through use of Aadhaar-based authentication violating the protections laid down by the Supreme Court.
- Privacy and security concerns in Aadhaar remain unaddressed – When private entities were allowed use of Aadhaar-based e-KYC, there were several reports of fraudulent transactions and scamming of citizens’ personal data as well as their money. There is no indication that either the finance ministry or the UIDAI has attempted to address these security lapses in the Aadhaar ecosystem. Allowing and encouraging use of Aadhaar-based authentication by private entities will result in further scams and theft.
- Bill lacks any stakeholder consultation – The Government has not undertaken a public consultation on the proposed amendments to the various laws. Any Bill on the issue of Aadhaar should not be merely rubber-stamped by Parliament; any proposed amendment must be fairly and thoroughly studied by the appropriate Parliamentary Standing Committee as well.
- Government can try to bypass Rajya Sabha – The Rajya Sabha in March 2016 had voted to curtail private sector Aadhaar usage when it debated the original Aadhaar Act, but the government over-rode Upper House’s farsighted warnings through the Money Bill route. In the SC judgement, Justice Chandrachud termed this a “fraud on the Constitution.” We are concerned that the government may once again take the Money Bill route to bulldoze these amendments through Parliament despite the fact that the proposed amendments do not confirm to constitutional requirements of a Money Bill.
Originally published on Rethink Aadhaar under CC BY 4.0. International license.