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Aadhaar ruling soon to come from India’s Supreme Court


India’s Supreme Court is nearing a ruling in its hearing on the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar identification registry, which at 38 days is now the second-longest hearing in the country’s history, Firstpost reports. Firstpost has extensively summarized the arguments made during the hearing, in chronological order.

Arguments began with 19 days of petitioner arguments, which concluded with nine specific complaints about Aadhaar, each of which the petitioner’s claim can only be addressed by canceling part or all of the program. Petitioners presented arguments that the inclusion of metadata violates privacy rights and could enable profiling of individuals, that Aadhaar represents over-reaching surveillance, that protections may be necessary to protect the abuse of data, that the Aadhaar Act lacks proportionality and does not include necessary provisions, such as for alternative forms of identification, that it is more intrusive than a system in which biometrics are stored on a card, Firstpost says. They also argued that it violates the right to equality, and biometrics are inherently unreliable, that children cannot consent to private data collection, that religious objections to participation should be respected, that transgender people may not be able to provide adequate documents to register for an Aadhaar number, and that non-resident Indians could be prevented from acquiring a SIM or paying taxes.

Attorney General KK Venugopal led the State’s defense, presenting counter-arguments and information from the Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI). The State argued that vast amounts of money have been saved under Aadhaar, and defended its constitutional legitimacy, saying that it represents a limited and reasonable restriction of privacy in the larger interest of the public.

Petitioners began counter-arguments on day 33 of the proceedings, rejecting many of the State’s claims, and calling for both individual sections of the Aadhaar Act and the entirety to be thrown out for a variety of reasons, both procedural and practical.

Along the way, the Court has extended deadlines for requiring Aadhaar to access services, and has rendered a series of judgements and positions on specific issues within the case, such as the applicability of previous decisions to certain arguments.

Enrollment software used in the Aadhaar program has recently been reported for sale with the biometric data protection safeguards disabled, in the latest of a parade of security problems facing Aadhaar. Despite these problems, the IMF lauded the program in April, noting that its encryption of biometric data is consistent with preserving privacy rights, but that enhanced security controls may be necessary.

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