Photo: Mint
Photo: Mint

How Supreme Court’s Aadhaar order affects you

Taking forward the government's vision for inception of Aadhaar, it remains key for availing benefits under central and state government welfare schemes (PDS, LPG, MGNREGA) and for subsidies

With the Supreme Court (SC) holding Aadhaar to be constitutionally sound, a lot is set to change for the state, and its citizens, besides other stakeholders such as private firms. Mint analyses the proposed changes and how these will lead to a more secure Aadhaar ecosystem.

What are the key takeaways from the judgement?

The SC has held the biometric-based identification programme, Aadhaar, to be constitutionally valid. It has also provided legal sanction to its architecture and privacy framework, which had earlier attracted criticism. Concerns about privacy of personal data have been addressed by striking down and reading down certain provisions. The verdict marks the end of any confusion regarding the services for which Aadhaar is mandated, and by whom. It retains the primacy of its use in distribution of subsidies and social welfare benefits to the poor and the needy.

For what is Aadhaar not mandatory?

Aadhaar need not be linked with bank accounts and mobile phone numbers. This sounds neat on paper, but will be tough to enforce, as bank accounts need permanent account number (PAN), which has to be linked with Aadhaar. Mandatory linking of Aadhaar has been denied for school admissions and enrolling in UGC and CBSE exams. Curbs have been placed on its use by private companies—including payment banks, fintech firms—that relied on Aadhaar-based know-your-customer norms for digital authentication. Private firms/websites selling air, train, rail and movie tickets cannot insist on Aadhaar any more.

Is it compulsory for children to get Aadhaar?

A child may be enrolled for Aadhaar any time before the age of majority through their parents or guardians. Upon attaining majority, the child is at liberty to opt out of Aadhaar.

For which services is Aadhaar mandatory?

Taking forward the government’s vision for inception of Aadhaar, it remains key for availing benefits under central and state government welfare schemes (PDS, LPG, MGNREGA) and for subsidies. It is also compulsory to link Aadhaar to a person’s permanent account number (PAN) and for filing of income-tax returns. A person cannot be asked to compulsorily provide Aadhaar for any other service. A person can, however, voluntarily choose to use his Aadhaar number for other services.

What changes are likely due to the provisions that have been struck down or reworked?

Striking down of Regulation 27(1) and reducing storage period of authentication data from five years to six months will ensure personal data is not misused. Amending Regulation 26 and making metabase relating to a transaction impermissible will prevent fake profiling of an Aadhaar holder. Striking down of Section 47 means citizens can file a complaint in case of data theft, which earlier could be done by the government alone.

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