(MENAFN- Gulf Times) The Supreme Court yesterday asked the central government what was need for storing Aadhaar-linked data in a centralised repository and linking the unique identification with everything.
'Why (do) you want to store data when you want the identity of a person to be established... in Singapore, everyone has a unique identification card and all information is stored in a chip card and is not with the state, said Justice A K Sikri.
He said the government could come with less invasive ways of confirming the identity of a person, and asked what was the necessity of centralising and aggregating the data for ever, citing the doctrine of proportionality between the object sought to be achieved and what was being actually done.
A five-judge constitution bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan is hearing a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhaar Act on the touchstone of the fundamental right to privacy.
The question from the bench came as Attorney General K K Venugopal commenced arguments for the central government, presenting Aadhaar as a panacea for 'enormous governance-related ills including corruption, leak and pilferage of benefits under the welfare schemes meant for vulnerable sections of society and eliminating fake beneficiaries.
Contrasting the right to privacy espoused by the petitioners challenging the Aadhaar with that of the right to physical existence without hunger or living on pavements, Venugopal said every right has two aspects.
At this Justice Chandrachud said: 'So is privacy not a fundamental right for the poor?
Both rights right to privacy and right to physical existence without hunger are rooted in the Constitution's Article 21 guaranteeing right to life and needed to be balanced, the government's top lawyer added.
The data in the centralised repository was well protected as the building had a 13ft-high and 5ft-thick wall, Venugopal said, adding that from 2009 to 2016 when the Aadhaar Act was passed by parliament, people voluntarily parted with their biometric data.
Asking whether it was an informed consent, Justice Chandrachud said that people did not surrender their personality or personal data for commercialisation.
Venugopal pointed to the saving of Rs450bn that the government made by linking different welfare schemes with Aadhaar, and quoted late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi's admission that out of every Re1 allotted by the government, only 15 paise reached the poor.
As he cited the plugging of leakages and eliminating fake beneficiaries of welfare schemes including pension, Justice Chandrachud said pension is an entitlement that a person or his family gets after rendering certain service to the government and the money released under it goes to an individual's account which can't be operated by any other person.
The judge said pension was not a subsidy, benefit or service being given by the state requiring its linking with Aadhaar, and cited the example of his family when after his father's death, his mother started getting family pension.
Referring to the cabinet secretary's instruction that people who don't have Aadhaar should not be deprived of the benefits, Justice Chandrachud asked the attorney general to explain what steps the government was taking to address the issue of economic exclusion of vulnerable sections.
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