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The Supreme Court Tuesday issued notice to all the states on a PIL contending that the entire Aadhaar scheme was unconstitutional as the biometric data collected under it was an incursion and transgression of individual privacy.
Notice was issued after court was told that a large number of States have linked the entitlement of socially and economically beneficial schemes with the Aadhaar scheme.
Referring to the provisions in various State, senior counsel Shyam Divan told the court that possessing a Aadhaar card has become necessary for the registration of marriages under Hindu Marriage Act, Special Marriage Act, solemnization of marriages, admission to schools, drawing salaries, and for securing essential services, cooking gas, rural jobs scheme, food subsidy and other welfare schemes.
Though there is no statutory backing for the Aadhaar scheme, but even if there was one even then storing the digitalized biometric data of the finger prints, facial photograph and that of iris on a server could not be done, he told a bench of Justice B.S. Chauhan and Justice S.A.Bobde.
Divan, who had appeared for the main petitioner Justice (Retd.) K.S. Puttaswamy, said that even if the Aadhaar scheme was voluntary even then the government could not keep such personal data of the citizens as it violated Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution and would remain a coercive instrument in the hands of the government.
Asking the senior counsel to make his submissions taking into account “harsh ground realities”, Justice Chauhan said, “Even in India we have 30 percent slaves.
“People don’t have potable water. For them food and water is more important than right to privacy. We are giving rice to people for Rs.1 per kg. Even today 60 percent of girls are married below the age of 18 years.”
“What is the percentage and whose rights are being argued (for the violation of privacy)?” Justice Chauhan asked Divan telling him that the impact of Aadhar card on the invasion of privacy of citizens was “variable”.
It may be an issue with white collar people but certainly not who are struggling for food and water, the court said as Divan sought to persuade the court that Aadhaar must be abandoned altogether.
Conceding the point raised by the court, Divan said: “It might not impact all similarly. To some it might. To some it might not at all and to some in distant future. There will be variable impact.”
“There is a harsh reality. They have issue with sustenance. For them this point(of privacy) will not impact”, the court reiterated pointing to harsh reality of a poverty-ridden society.
Pointing to the possible commercial use of this digitized biometric data, Divan said that besides being unconstitutional, the entire project was being executed by private enterprises with no statutory rules and guidelines to safeguard the data from being misused.