Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint
Photo: Priyanka Parashar/Mint

Delhi HC admits petition seeking copies of contracts between UIDAI and firms

The contracts were for various purposes including the provision of biometric services

New Delhi: The Delhi high court on Tuesday took up a petition which has sought copies of contracts between the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and companies collecting biometric data from citizens.

The contracts were for various purposes including the provision of biometric services and were between UIDAI purporting to act on behalf of the government of India and two foreign companies.

Petitioner Mathew Thomas who sought this information said this data must be made available to all Aadhaar holders. Justice Manmohan on Tuesday allowed the petitioner to include the two companies in the proceedings. The two companies are Identity Solutions, an Australia-based company that makes specialized fingerprint readers and Accenture, a company registered in the US that uses retinal scanning.

In 2013, the petitioner had filed for access to the contracts under the Right to Information Act and the central information officer had directed UIDAI to furnish copies of the contract. The court noted that UIDAI did not object to disclosing the information before the appellate body of the information commission. The petitioner told the court that, however, certain annexes of the contracts were withheld.

“We cannot disclose the technical aspects of the contract as it is patented technology of the company," a lawyer representing UIDAI told the court.

Thomas is also one of the petitioners in a bunch of cases pending before the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhaar. Some of the cases deal with Aadhaar numbers being made mandatory to avail certain government benefits and services.

Others deal with the number itself being in violation of an individual’s privacy, especially in the absence of any backing regulation or oversight, and still others deal with a possible misuse of the information. The apex court has referred the question on whether Aadhaar violates an individual’s right to privacy under the Constitution.

The UIDAI does not have any legislative backing and was constituted by a notification in 2009 under the erstwhile Planning Commission.

As of now, 920 million Indian citizens have been allotted Aadhaar numbers. The case will be heard next on 3 September.