A five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court will on Wednesday begin the final hearing in the Aadhaar case. The bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, will continue hearing the petitions challenging the validity of Aadhaar contending that it violates an individual’s fundamental right to privacy. In August last year, a nine-judge bench of the apex court had held that Right to Privacy was a Fundamental Right under the Constitution. Several petitioners challenging the validity of Aadhaar had also claimed it violated privacy rights.
The issue regarding the validity of Aadhaar and possible leakage of data has cropped up time and again since the inception of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) number. Besides, a recent report in The Tribune had exposed the fact that the Aadhaar database could be essentially bought on the internet only for Rs 500. UIDAI then filed an FIR against Tribune reporter Rachna Khaira for her report that unknown agents had provided her access to Aadhaar’s demographic database for Rs 500.
The Supreme Court has also received petitions regarding the linkage of this 12-digit number with mobile phones, bank accounts and with other services, the last date for which was extended to March 31 this year.
The Union government had on December 7 last year informed the Supreme Court that it will extend up to March 31, 2018 the deadline fixed for mandatory linking of Aadhaar with various schemes, including one’s bank accounts. Attorney General K K Venugopal, however, said the last date for linking Aadhaar to mobile services will remain February 6, 2018 in pursuance of a judicial order.
Some petitioners in the top court have termed the linking of the 12-digit number with bank accounts and mobile numbers as “illegal and unconstitutional”.
To restrict the usage of Aadhaar number, the UIDAI had on January 10 introduced Virtual IDs (VID), which any Aadhaar holder will be able to generate for a temporary period and can use in place of the Aadhaar number to validate her or his identity. The parent body of the Aadhaar project had also brought in Limited KYC (Know Your Customer) and UID Tokens, in an attempt to assuage the privacy and security concerns as the Aadhaar numbers were being used and stored by many public and private entities.