New Delhi: Aadhaar has become a tool of exclusion since individuals are shut out of welfare schemes if their fingerprint or iris scan fails to authenticate them as genuine beneficiaries, the Supreme Court was told on Thursday. No other identity proof can be produced to access such schemes in case of authentication failures, Kapil Sibal said, arguing for petitioners who have challenged the unique identity number.
The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) which issues Aadhaar contested the argument, saying there was no question of exclusion and if biometrics and iris scans failed, one was entitled to produce an alternative identification.
Sibal questioned the basis for Aadhaar being made the “sole identification" for welfare schemes under the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services Act), 2016. “All proofs of identity, which are otherwise acceptable, are excluded under the Act," he said.
The submission was made before a constitution bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices D.Y. Chandrachud, A.K. Sikri, A.M. Khanwilkar and Ashok Bhushan.
On this, justice Sikri observed that other ID proofs were acceptable at the time of enrolment. Sibal said they were acceptable for enrolment, not for identification. “What’s the basis for this," he asked.
Justice Chandrachud added that the Constitution itself postulates multiple identities through gender, status, religion etc. and that the Act did not speak of identity in the same sense.
As part of the arguments against the unique identification number, Aadhaar’s architecture has been criticized on grounds of it leading to a surveillance state by tracking people or using their personal data if not curtailed, being destructive of a limited Constitution and violating an individual’s fundamental right to privacy. Issues with UIDAI’s enrolment procedure that raised concerns about data breaches have also put been forth.
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 UIDAI.
The case will continue to be heard on 12 February.