Case Description

The Court will decide the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016.

Background

In 2011, the Central Government initiated a new identity document known as the Aadhaar Card and established a new agency, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), to issue the card. Aadhaar is a twelve digit unique identity number. The government intended for Aadhaar to be the primary identity number for all residents of Indian. It has made Aadhaar available to every resident free of cost. In order to apply for the card, a resident must submit their biometric data, which includes a scan of their fingerprints and retinas. The UIDAI is responsible for storing the data in a centralized database.

 

The Government progressively made the Aadhaar Card mandatory for numerous welfare schemes. These include subsidised food under the Public Distribution System and the Mid-Day Meal Scheme and wage labour under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme.

 

The Aadhaar scheme has been challenged before the Supreme Court by Justice K.S. Puttaswamy, a retired judge of the Karnataka High Court. He claims that Aadhaar infringes upon fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Broadly, his objections include:

The government has not put in place adequate privacy safeguards. Any private entity may request authentication by Aadhaar for any reason subject to regulations by the UIDAI. There are no checks on the power of the government to use the biometric data collected.

Entitlements granted to the individuals by the State's social sector schemes are themselves a fundamental right. They cannot be limited for any reason, including non-production of an Aadhaar Card/Number.

 

At the time, the government argued that India has no fundamental right to privacy and that the Government is well within its powers to make the Aadhaar card mandatory for any reason. However, in 2017, the Court ruled that privacy is a fundamental right that flows from Article 21. Now, the question remains whether the Government can make Aadhaar necessary for receiving benefits from welfare schemes. The Governments has argued that Aadhaar is necessary to prevent corruption and leakages in welfare schemes across India, and its absence has cost the State an untold amount of money.

Issues

Whether the Aadhaar card can be made mandatory for all residents of India?

Whether the citizens of India have a fundamental Right to Privacy?

Whether the maintenance of a record of biometric data violates the Right to Privacy?

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