World bank chief economist – Paul Rover described Aadhaar as “the most sophisticated ID program in the world”. Launched in 2009 by former prime minister Dr. Manmohan Singh of the UPA government, Aadhaar is the world’s largest biometric ID system.
On 26 September, by a 4-1 vote, a bench led by the retiring Honorable Chief Justice affirmed the constitutionality of the Aadhaar Act. Through an analysis lasting for about 1,448 pages the supreme court observed that the enrollment in Aadhaar scheme is of voluntary nature. This nature of enrollment in the court’s judgement makes it indispensable to get the consent of an “Individual” for enrollment.
Furthermore, the court goes on to state that it becomes compulsory for those who seek to receive any subsidy, benefit or service under the welfare scheme of the government expenditure, whereof it is to be met from the consolidated fund of India. The conclusion drawn from court’s opinion is that unless one receives any subsidies or benefits of a welfare scheme, it is not mandatory to have an Aadhaar number and if one specifically refuses to give consent, they will be allowed to exit the scheme.
During the hearing process 29 petitions were filed which challenged the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar scheme on various grounds. The petitioners argued that Aadhaar violated the fundamental right to privacy guaranteed under article 21 of the constitution of India, caused large scale exclusion of beneficiaries from various welfare schemes and benefits and was irregularly introduced in the parliament as a money bill to pivotal oppositions.
Irrespective of the judgement, the Aadhaar case has been one of the most significant litigations the country has seen. It tests the validity of the world’s largest biometric ID program against fundamental human rights like the right to privacy. Aadhaar has empowered over 1.22 billion Indians in all the years of its existence, giving them a sense of trust and identity. Today all over the country Aadhaar is one valid document that is trusted over all other identity proofs.
The supreme court’s verdict in this case will have long-term implications on how technology is synced into governance in the coming years and how will it shape the new digital India in the modern times.
Whenever we get into a discussion on the validity of this identity proof, few important questions test our brains. So below we have listed some important queries that you might have about Aadhaar and its validity in our daily lives.
Q1. Unique identification authority of India (UIDAI) has all our data including biometrics, PAN, etc. Do they use it to track our activities?
ANS- No. UIDAI database has only the following information-
(a) Your name, address, DOB, gender
(b) Ten fingerprints, two IRIS scans, facial photograph
(c) Mobile number and email ID
Rest assured, UIDAI does not have our information about family, caste, religion, education, bank accounts, shares, mutual funds, financial or property details, health records etc. and will never have this information in its database.
Section 32(3) of the Aadhaar act 2016 specifically prohibits UIDAI from controlling, collecting, keeping or maintaining any information about the purpose of authentication either by itself or through any entity.
Q2. Do NRIs need Aadhaar for banking, mobile, PAN and other services?
ANS- Aadhaar is only for residents of India. NRIs are not eligible to get Aadhaar. The respective service providers like banks and mobile companies have laid down NRI- specific exemptions. NRIs should simply tell the banks and other service providers such as credit card companies etc. that they are not required to provide Aadhaar numbers for integrity of being non-resident Indians.
Q3. Can the Aadhaar database be breached?
ANS- Aadhaar database has never been breached during last 8 years of its existence. Data of all Aadhaar holders is safe and secure. Stories around Aadhaar data breach are mostly cases of false news and misreporting. UIDAI uses advanced security technologies to keep our data safe and also keeps upgrading them to meet emerging security threats and challenges.
Q4. What are the benefits of linking Aadhaar?
ANS- While there are many benefits an Indian citizen can avail if their Aadhaar is linked, its validity stands strong in the following circumstances-
(a) Verifying income tax return
(b) Simplified KYC
(c) Easier and paperless EPF claims
Q5. Is It mandatory to link Aadhaar for every purpose?
ANS- The supreme court has observed that enrollment of Aadhaar is voluntary in nature, which clearly means that it is imperative to have consent of an individual for enrollment. The court has also stated that unless you receive any benefits from any welfare scheme from the government you will be allowed to exit the scheme with your consent.
But one thing that still holds validity is the section 139AA of Income Tax Act, 1961 that makes the linking of Aadhaar card to the permanent account number (PAN) mandatory, which means that to get a PAN or file an income tax return you need Aadhaar.
Q6. Some agencies insist on producing original Aadhaar and do not accept E-Aadhaar. What can one do in such a situation?
ANS- Downloaded Aadhaar(E-Aadhaar) from the official website of UIDAI holds same validity as the original card, and both should be accepted by all agencies. As a matter of fact, E-Aadhaar has updated address of the Aadhaar holders and therefore should be preferable and if anyone refuses to accept downloaded E-Aadhaar, the holder can file a complain with the higher authorities of those agencies.
So, these were some basic queries which occur to us in our daily walks of life. We at Creditkaro work hard to make your life easier, to make sure that you find all the solutions to your problems at one stop. If there is anything you would like us to write about, feel free to suggest as your contribution is of the highest value to us.