Indian Justices attempt to clarify legal positions as Aadhaar constitutional challenge continues

Challenges to the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar program in India’s Supreme Court continue to be heard, with Court Justices attempting to clarify the legal position of the petitions against it, The Hindu reports.

The hearings are considering 27 writ petitions together, the first of which was initiated seven years ago, according to the Hindu. On the eighth day of hearings this week, Senior advocate Kapil Sibal questioned why the authentication of identity should be linked to biometrics.

“With other identity documents open to duplicity, let us have at least one identity with biometrics,” Justice A.K. Sikri responded.

Sibal has argued that Aadhaar is unconstitutional because it is inconsistent with the fundamental right to choose, as protected under Article 21 of India’s Constitution, and that the program creates a “one-nation-one-identity” regime in which the lack of an Aadhaar number is a risk of “civil death.”

The UIDAI, however, reiterated recently that essential services cannot be withheld from individuals who do not posses an Aadhaar number, or for whom authentication under the program fails. Numerous controversies have dogged the program, but Justice D.Y. Chandrachud pointed out during the fifth day of hearings earlier this month that the possibility for misuse is not grounds for striking down a law.

In addition to the general validity of the scheme, Justices are considering the limitations of the Aadhaar program.
“Let us say Aadhaar is per se constitutionally valid. Then we have to decide how far Aadhaar can be used. Should Aadhaar be used only to access subsidies? Is there a constitutional line that should not be infringed? A line when crossed would become violation of privacy,” Justice Sikri observed in late January, as reported by The Hindu.

India’s government plans to link Aadhaar to the driver’s license system to identify fakes, as previously reported, and the election commissioner has suggested the program be used to verify voters’ identities.

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