Context: A five-judges bench of Supreme Court have upheld the passage of Aadhaar Act as a Money Bill. What is Aadhaar
    • The Aadhaar is the name of the Unique Identification Number that the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) issues to every resident of India.
    • It is a twelve-digit number which is linked the resident’s demographic and biometric information.
    • The data is collected by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), a statutory authority established in January 2009 by the Government of India, under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
    • It is under the provisions of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, benefits and services) Act, 2016.
What is UIDAI?
  • The Unique Identification Authority of India was established in 2009 and functions as part of the Planning Commission of India.
  • UIDAI is a government agency that has been mandated by the government to develop, identify and set up the necessary infrastructure for issuing Aadhaar cards to ensure
    • Elimination of duplicate and fake identities, and
    • Person Authentication in an easy, cost-effective way.
Aadhaar Act, 2016
    • The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, benefits and services) Act, 2016 was passed as a money bill on the 11 March 2016 by the Lok Sabha.
    • It aims to provide legal backing to the Aadhaar unique identification number project.
Objectives of Aadhaar Act, 2016:
    • Aadhaar Act seeks to provide efficient, transparent and targeted delivery of subsidies, benefits and services to individuals residing in India by assigning them unique identity numbers (UID) or Aadhaar number.
    • It will be used for all benefits that will be linked to consolidated fund of India or the expenditure incurred from it.
    • Both central and state governments can use Aadhaar for disbursal of benefits and subsidies.
Why Aadhaar was needed:
  • To facilitate the access to host of governmental benefits and services seamlessly like subsidies, pensions, ration, bank accounts etc. creating an integrated interface.
  • A unique ID would cut down the need of different IDs for various purposes like Driving License, Bank account, Voter ID, Ration card etc, thereby easing compliance for the beneficiaries.
  • A clear registration and recognition of the individual identity with the state is necessary to implement their rights, to employment, education, food etc.
  • To prevent leakages and corruption by removing ghost accounts of multiple beneficiaries and kickbacks of various officials at every stage, thereby ensuring full benefits of any scheme reach the beneficiary.
  • Reduced paperwork and compliance cutting down the government’s operating costs and resulting in savings for the exchequer.
  • This will lead to transition towards a less-cash, financially inclusive society.
The Supreme Court judgment
  • The Supreme Court struck down several provisions in the Aadhaar Act. However, the bench has ruled Centre's flagship Aadhaar scheme as constitutionally valid.
Debate over the recent Supreme Court Judgement:
  • In a recent Judgement, five-judges Bench of SC says the Bills is a reasonable restriction on individual privacy that fulfils the government’s aim to provide dignity to a large and marginalized population.
  • However, there are several arguments made by dissenting voices, arguing that Adhaar Act is unconstitutional and it is against the fundamental right of Privacy and Dignity of Individual such as:
[table id=64 /] [table id=66 /] Benefits sought by the Supreme Court in its judgement: Supreme Court has necessitated the Aadhaar linkage for certain services due to the following benefits:
  • To plug leakages in subsidy schemes and to have better targeting of welfare benefits
  • To prevent denial of rights and legal entitlements to marginalized section of society who are dependent on the government schemes and benefits.
  • To bring in regulations for an effective mechanism for delivery of public oriented services.
Challenges Remains after Aadhaar Verdict:
  • Aadhaar scheme does not provide robust mechanism to get consent of citizens before collecting their demographic and biometric data.
  • Aadhaar has serious problems about exclusion and right to benefits cannot be made dependent on authentication of Aadhaar
  • There is no institutional responsibility of the UIDAI to protect the data of citizens and there is absence of a regulatory mechanism to provide robust data protection.
  • Leakage in the verification log poses risk of biometric data being vulnerable to unauthorized exploitation by third parties
  • Adequate norms must be laid down for steps from collection to retention of biometric data.
  • Due to lack of robust infrastructure, like availability of scanning machine or internet connection, people have been denied services like rations, salaries, pensions etc.
  • Absence of an alternate mechanism in case of failure of biometric authentication.
  • SC is silent about the way to erase Aadhaar data which has already been taken by Banks, Telecom Companies etc.
  • Aadhaar verdict may delay KYC for payment wallets, telcos, banks, mutual funds as they have to redefine the verification process.
Way Forward:
  • Government should formulate a comprehensive mechanism to plug loopholes with respect to data protection and build a comprehensive data protection plan.
  • Infrastructural gaps, like internet coverage, reliable and efficient machines, trained manpower, needs to be plugged for efficient targeted delivery of services dependent on Aadhaar.
  • Alternate mechanism is needed in case of Biometric Failure to avail Government benefits.
  • A plan should be envisaged for data erasing from previous seeding and in future cases if it falls in wrong hands.
  • Alternate ID proofs should be made equally valid as Aadhaar until all the population is covered with Aadhaar enrollment even in the services where aadhaar linking has been made mandatory.