SC leaves room for Aadhaar schemes [ Aug 25 2017 : The Times of India (Kolkata)]

There is sufficient leeway for the government to pursue digitisation programmes, many of which are centred around Aadhaar, with the Supreme Court setting out “legitimate state aims“ that can allow linkage of UID with social welfare schemes. The SC's clear-cut reference to national security , prevention and investigation of crime, encouraging innovation and making delivery of welfare programmes more efficient as permissible objectives will help preserve Aadhaar-driven schemes that have been challenged over privacy issues. While the petitioners had sought the establishment of privacy as a fundamental right by itself, the court has located it within the right to life and liberty and, therefore, subject to restrictions that apply to Article 21.This would mean initiatives like linking Aadhaar to tax returns can be justified on the grounds that this will help check fraud through use of multiple PAN cards commonly used to duck tax. The judgment provides grounds for the government to argue that the use of Aadhaar, and the consequent implications for privacy , need to be weighed against whether UID has improved governance. So if the government can show duplicate and ghost beneficiaries have been eliminated, graft reduced and the right beneficiaries benefited, it will have a strong case for use of biometric verification. Data protection is the other crucial issue as the SC expressed concern during arguments that it did not want information to be leaked and users harassed by telemarketers. Here, UID's own security systems -dis persal of servers and protocol requiring several staffers to share codes before accessing data internally -are as important as guidelines for government and private users of KYC services. The SC judgment does make it evident that the government will have to present a robust reasoning for expansion of Aadhaar use to more areas apart from delivery of government services. But the court itself has asked for Aadhaar linkage to mobile telephone connections and its use for verification of identities does not seem likely to be affected. International references to use of biometrics include maintenance of DNA profiles of convicts in some countries like the US, where the facility has helped law agencies solve crimes while also, on occasion, establishing a wrongly convicted person as innocent. The expansion of privacy into a fundamental right, however, means the provisions of the Aadhaar Act not to allow collation of data on individuals will be taken more seriously by the current and succeeding governments. On the other hand, the ruling that there is no general right to privacy means government action will continue.
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