The implementation of the Aadhaar scheme is in trouble following the Supreme Court’s interim directive that states that the card is not mandatory. The Supreme Court had passed this order on a batch of petitions that stated that the scheme is an infringement on fundamental rights.
This ambitious programme by the government which was introduced in the first place as a security measure appears to have defeated the purpose as there are complaints that it has been issued to persons without legal papers or proper documentation.
While this is being seen as a set back to the implementation of the project, at the Unique Identification Authority of India which is implementing the project, work is on as usual. An officer associated with the project tells rediff.com that they are going about the implementation. Regarding the issue of infringement or Fundamental Rights or making the card mandatory is a policy decision of the government and does not fall under our jurisdiction. During the implementation of the project we have been insisting on proofs before we could enrol citizens. With regard to those without a proof, the aim is to create a data base. However with regard to the issue being mandatory or not is not something that comes under purview, the official also informed.
Justice K S Puttaswamy who had petitioned the Supreme Court however begs to differ and says that taking information on biometrics and fingerprints infringes right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution. He points out that the government ought to have issued safeguards and also a legislative backing before going ahead. Moreover the government had said that this was not voluntary and now it is making it mandatory since it aims at linking the social security number with various essential services.
At the UIDAI, the officials are now awaiting government action following the Supreme Court interim directive. The government has already assured the court that the card is not mandatory and it would look further into the flaws that have been raised. The Union Government says that at no point in time was any directive issued to any of the state government to make the card mandatory. If some states have done it then it ought not to have been done and their respective directives should be cancelled.
The bigger problem that the programme could face is that it was brought into force despite the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance rejecting legislation. Now the government which has been given a shake up by the Supreme Court would take up this matter on priority during the winter session of parliament. The bill pertaining to UIDAI will be pushed in the winter session and once passed it aims at giving the same a statutory status. Once this Bill is passed it no longer operate through an executive order thus giving it more legality and making it a law.
Rajiv Shukla, had recently said Aadhaar establishes the identity of a person and not the nationality. It also serves as proof of residence. Moreover, it is a voluntary facility and not mandatory.
While the bill may give a legal status to the project, there are still questions that are being asked about the same. Among the concerns are:
Who would be responsible in case of an identity theft? Who would be responsible to ensure that the data is kept safe and who owns the data that has been collected as part of this programme? These are some of the concerns that are likely to be addressed by the Union Cabinet before the Bill is placed, sources point out.
(story first appeared on rediff.com)