Public interest litigation in India challenges the legal basis of Unique Identity Authority
On November 30 the Supreme Court of India issued a notice to the government, challenging the legal basis for the formation of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). The court has asked the government to respond why the issuance of Aadhaar numbers should not be put on hold.
This challenge comes in response to a Public interest litigation (PIL), seeking the issuance of Aadhaar numbers be put on hold, Firstpost reports.
This threatens to pull the plug on the massive Aadhaar program, which would completely stop the direct cash transfer scheme that depends on beneficiaries having Aadhaar numbers.
The PIL petition argues that the UIDAI is unconstitutional as it claims biometric data collection is an invasion of a citizen’s right to privacy, protected under the Fundamental Right to Life.
“The state is asking for biometrics of an individual. The mere asking of biometric data is encroaching into someone’s privacy,” Akit Goel, a Supreme Court advocate for the petitioners said in the Firstpost article. It is tantamount to phone tapping. Whereas in phone tapping there is legislation, there is no legislation here… In the absence of a law passed by Parliament there can’t by any collection of private information. This is against the law laid down by the Supreme Court.”
“There is no regulatory mechanism to ensure that the data collected is not tampered with or remains secure. When there is no legislation, there is no offence in parting with this information. And when there is no offence, there can be security issues,” Goel added.
Another point the PIL petition makes condemning the UIDAI is that the Aadhaar program aims to enrol all residents of India, which includes non-citizens. This is something the authors of the petition believe will extend benefits and incentives meant for only for Indian citizens to these non-citizens.
“This per se is contradictory to the Citizenship Act, 1955, which does not recognize non-citizens at par with citizens. No country can afford to bestow benefits to aliens at the cost of citizens,” Goel said.