India

In Supreme Court, Centre admits Aadhaar data leak, critics cite ‘civil liberties’

In Supreme Court, Centre admits Aadhaar data leak, critics cite ‘civil liberties’

Meanwhile, critics of the government’s decision to make Aadhaar mandatory for obtaining PAN cards cautioned that the move would “dilute civil liberties and dominate the citizens”.

THE CENTRE on Wednesday acknowledged in the Supreme Court that personal data of Aadhaar card-holders had been leaked. Meanwhile, critics of the government’s decision to make Aadhaar mandatory for obtaining PAN cards cautioned that the move would “dilute civil liberties and dominate the citizens”. The Centre’s acknowledgment came a day after Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi, while defending the move to make Aadhaar mandatory for PAN cards, told the apex court that “one cannot have an absolute right over his or her body”.

“The leaks are not from UIDAI database. There is not a single leak from the UIDAI database,’’ said Arghya Sengupta, who was appearing for the Centre. “Aadhaar is currently the most foolproof method that has evolved. But technology is not foolproof. Technology is evolving and I cannot say what will happen after 20 years, whether it will still be safe. But as of now, biometrics is the safest.’’ Meanwhile, counsel for the petitioners, who have challenged the validity of amendments in the Income Tax (IT) Act requiring tax-payers to provide their Aadhaar card details while applying for a Permanent Account Number (PAN) and for filing IT returns, contended that an Aadhaar-like system had not been implemented in any country which calls itself democratic.

“Through this, a person can be tracked and remain under electronic surveillance throughout his life,” senior advocate Shyam Divan told the bench. The decision, he asserted, was in “complete collision” with the norms laid down by the UIDAI, which clearly states that Aadhaar is “voluntary”. Pointing out that Aadhaar “enrollers”, who collect citizens’ data and biometrics, are private parties and there is serious threat of misuse or leakage of data, Divan said: “There are cases where such information has been commercially sold. The law says life and body is paramount and if the fingerprints of an individual are stolen, it might end his identity… If we fail here, there is tremendous possibility that state will dilute civil liberties and dominate its citizens. The concept of civil liberties will go then.”

“Even today, UIDAI website says that every citizen is entitled to voluntarily obtaining Aadhaar,” he said. “Instrumentalities of state do not defraud the public. UIDAI has given the correct interpretation, that is, Aadhaar is voluntary. The language of the statute and understanding of UIDAI is clear. Aadhaar is entirely voluntary,” he said, adding that the application form for Aadhaar enrollment also says it is voluntary. Referring to reports that newborns in Haryana need Aadhaar for their birth certificates, he said the issue raised questions of civil liberties of the highest constitutional level, and the court was duty-bound to protect the rights of citizens.

Divan argued that there was a “complete collision” between the Aadhaar Act and Section 139AA of the IT Act, which makes Aadhaar mandatory for filing Income Tax returns and applying for PAN cards with effect from July 1 this year. The bench, comprising Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, was hearing a clutch of petitions filed by retired army officer S G Vombatkere, Dalit activist Bezwada Wilson and senior Kerala CPI leader Binoy Viswam. Defending the Centre’s decision to make Aadhaar mandatory for filing Income Tax returns, Sengupta said, “The object is not to discriminate, but to ensure that duplicate PAN cards are weeded out and consequent deleterious effects of PAN duplication are avoided.’’

The counsel, who heads Delhi-based think-tank Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, said: “Conscientious objectors are essentially offenders of the law because they feel they have good moral reasons to do so. If that is so, most laws would be discriminatory”. He drew parallels with the national anthem case, saying there may be people who do not want to stand up for the anthem. The Centre also argued that there was “no absolute right to informational self-determination’’ — right to decide which information can be shared with state agencies — and that even if any privacy provisions existed, it had to be interpreted in the context of Indian realities and not western laws.

On the question of privacy, Justice Sikri sought to know if those living in a tax regime could decide how they wanted to pay taxes. “Gender is a personal choice, but can we say the same when we live in a tax regime?’’ the judge asked. The Centre responded by saying that Parliament had decided “that you may have to do something which they (petitioner) do not want to do”. “There could be many things which could be objected to but the law cannot be said to be discriminatory… State has a right to ask for information and state does it also. We cannot impart on the conception of privacy prevailing in different parts of the world,” it said.

Rejecting the Centre’s stand, Diwan contended that Aadhaar had become an instrument of oppression and discrimination. “This is not an elite concern but a very civil rights one,’’ the senior counsel pointed out, adding that older people face a genuine problem as their fingerprints get erased with time and they find it impossible to provide their biometric data. The hearing will continue on Thursday.

Online Source: indianexpress.com

More in India

India, China Cannot Defeat Each Other, Says Dalai Lama

India, China Cannot Defeat Each Other, Says Dalai Lama

The Indian TelegraphAugust 14, 2017
Doklam standoff: Sushma meets Bhutanese Foreign Minister, Chinese Navy eyes Indian Ocean to extend reach

Doklam standoff: Sushma meets Bhutanese Foreign Minister, Chinese Navy eyes Indian Ocean to extend reach

The Indian TelegraphAugust 12, 2017
Seven weeks into standoff: China steps up troop presence at Doklam

Seven weeks into standoff: China steps up troop presence at Doklam

The Indian TelegraphAugust 10, 2017

India has maximum number of selfie deaths in world: Reports

The Indian TelegraphJuly 7, 2017
Stop terror attacks being launched from your soil, India, US tell Pakistan

Stop terror attacks being launched from your soil, India, US tell Pakistan

The Indian TelegraphJune 27, 2017
ONLINE VISITOR VISA LODGEMENT FOR INDIAN NATIONALS

ONLINE VISITOR VISA LODGEMENT FOR INDIAN NATIONALS

The Indian TelegraphJune 19, 2017
Indian fireworks factory blast leaves 23 people dead

Indian fireworks factory blast leaves 23 people dead

The Indian TelegraphJune 8, 2017
WHO reports first 3 cases of Zika virus in India, all from Gujarat

WHO reports first 3 cases of Zika virus in India, all from Gujarat

The Indian TelegraphMay 29, 2017
Uttar Pradesh government launches Anti-encephalitis campaign for 38 districts

Uttar Pradesh government launches Anti-encephalitis campaign for 38 districts

The Indian TelegraphMay 25, 2017
Two Maoist sympathisers held in Coimbatore for sticking posters without permission

Two Maoist sympathisers held in Coimbatore for sticking posters without permission

The Indian TelegraphMay 21, 2017
Vector-borne diseases: Delhi HC slams ‘lack of measures’

Vector-borne diseases: Delhi HC slams ‘lack of measures’

The Indian TelegraphMay 17, 2017
Madhya Pradesh: Three killed, 25 injured as bus topples in Dindori

Madhya Pradesh: Three killed, 25 injured as bus topples in Dindori

The Indian TelegraphMay 15, 2017
Rajasthan: Case against marriage hall owner after deadly wall collapse in Bharatpur

Rajasthan: Case against marriage hall owner after deadly wall collapse in Bharatpur

The Indian TelegraphMay 11, 2017
India notifies compliance of UN sanctions on North Korea

India notifies compliance of UN sanctions on North Korea

The Indian TelegraphMay 1, 2017
Amitabh Bachchan on Vinod Khanna’s death: Saw our 48 year relationship going up in flames

Amitabh Bachchan on Vinod Khanna’s death: Saw our 48 year relationship going up in flames

The Indian TelegraphApril 28, 2017
China plans to extend CPEC to Afghanistan for global anti-terror role

China plans to extend CPEC to Afghanistan for global anti-terror role

The Indian TelegraphApril 28, 2017
At least 8 killed in Srinagar poll violence, voter turnout 6.5 per cent

At least 8 killed in Srinagar poll violence, voter turnout 6.5 per cent

The Indian TelegraphApril 10, 2017
Holi festival: Delhi women forced into lockdown amid sexual harassment fears

Holi festival: Delhi women forced into lockdown amid sexual harassment fears

The Indian TelegraphMarch 14, 2017
‘Killing of Indian businessman in US may not be hate crime’

‘Killing of Indian businessman in US may not be hate crime’

The Indian TelegraphMarch 6, 2017
Hundreds March In Support Of Indian Killed In Kansas Shooting Incident

Hundreds March In Support Of Indian Killed In Kansas Shooting Incident

The Indian TelegraphFebruary 27, 2017
Forces Conduct Month-Long Exercise To Test Combat Readiness For Future Threats

Forces Conduct Month-Long Exercise To Test Combat Readiness For Future Threats

The Indian TelegraphFebruary 27, 2017