New Delhi: On the fourth day of arguments against Aadhaar, Shyam Divan, lawyer for the petitioners, elaborated on his argument about how the Aadhaar project has been violating and continues to violate people’s right to privacy by making them provide demographic and biometric information to private enrolment agencies.
Warning of the makings of a surveillance state, he sought alternative forms of authentication to be allowed for subsidies, banking services, admission to schools etc.
“Even where a person is availing of a benefit, subsidy or service from the state, mandatory authentication through Aadhaar (without an option to use an alternative mode of identification) violates the right to informational privacy," he said.
The submissions were being made before a constitution bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices D.Y. Chandrachud, A.K. Sikri, A.M. Khanwilkar and Ashok Bhushan.
A total of 31 petitions have been tagged by the Supreme Court to be heard by the Constitution bench. They challenge several aspects of Aadhaar, the 12-digit unique identity number that has become a bedrock of government welfare programmes, the tax administration network and online financial transactions, and the use/sharing of personal data collected by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).
Divan further told the court that the Aadhaar project was destructive of a limited Constitution and if not curtailed, would lead to the making of a totalitarian state.
“By making it compulsory for air travel, rail travel, services and benefits extended by state governments and municipal corporations, there will virtually be no zone of activity left where a person is not under the gaze of the state. This will have a chilling effect on the citizen." he added.
The enrolment procedure was also highlighted as being ‘arbitrary and in violation of Article 14 (right to equality) and 21 (right to life) of the Constitution’ for there was no informed consent at the time of enrolment, no opt-out option and it was conducted by private entities without governmental supervision.
On Tuesday, Divan had carved out the need to follow the benchmark of privacy under the Aadhaar project as illustrated by the Supreme Court’s privacy ruling, holding privacy to be a fundamental right under the Constitution of India.
Divan had also criticized the power handed to the UIDAI to outsource the security of the database which he said had raised concerns about data breaches and about the possibility of India turning into a surveillance state.
The case will be heard next on 30 January.