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On expansion of use of Aadhaar

Updated: Sep 25, 2023

The Aadhaar Rules, 2023: An attempt to nullify the Aadhaar Judgment of the Supreme Court:

Writing for the Indian Express, Maansi Verma and Praavita Kashyap, trustees of Article 21 Trust noted with concern how the Government is trying to circumvent the Supreme Court order through colourable legislation by widening the scope of the Aadhaar project. They noted that the judgment in KS Puttaswamy vs. Union of India (Aadhaar) while upholding the validity of the Aadhaar Act had drawn certain redlines around its uses. However, the Government, subsequent to its electoral victory, made amendments to the Aadhaar Act in 2019 to allow “voluntary” verification or Aadhaar authentication of users by banks or telecom service providers. This was instantly challenged before the Supreme Court and pending adjudication. The majority judgment had limited the mandatory use of Aadhaar for welfare services, which was criticised as being exclusionary in nature.

They also noted that while the use of Aadhaar was upheld for welfare services, Section 57 was read down in toto by the Apex court for being violative of the right to privacy as it specifically enabled private entities to use Aadhaar for establishing identities.

They pointed out that in 2020, the Government notified Aadhaar Authentication for Good Governance (Social Welfare, Innovation, Knowledge) Rules, 2020, without public consultation, which enabled the Government entities to use Aadhaar authentication for purposes such as good governance, enablement of innovation etc. Now the rules are being amended to enable private entities to request Aadhaar authentication for new purposes such as promoting ease of living for residents among other things. Incidentally, the rules have failed to define these purposes and how will private entities seeking Aadhaar number of citizens for identification enable better services has not been explained. They bolstered their arguments by pointing out that the Aadhaar system is creaky and vulnerable to fraud. They urged the government to address issues such as fraud related to Aadhaar before expanding its use.

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The Government violates the "redlines" drawn by the Supreme Court in Aadhaar judgment:

Speaking on the Good Governance Rules, 2020 to, Maansi Verma of Article 21 Trust and Ria Singh Sawhney of Rethink Aadhaar said that the justifications for the Aadhaar Authentication for Good Governance (Social Welfare, Innovation, Knowledge) Rules, 2020 were vague and were termed as old wine in a new bottle. They raised concerns in relation to the widening of the scope of the Aadhaar Act, which the Supreme Court had restricted and its use was limited to subsidies and benefits. Pointing out the irony of the rules, they noted that while the government has touted these rules as “good governance” the Aadhaar project has been pushed with total disregard for the norms underlying this concept: respect for the rights of citizens, respect for democratic processes, and accountability to citizens.

They lamented that the Government has long claimed “dissipation of social benefits” without any evidence to back the claims that it made. They claimed that any linkage to Aadhaar poses risks to the “safety, security and health of the population.

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