On the fifth day of arguments on petitions challenging the validity of Aadhaar, senior counsel Shyam Divan told the Supreme Court that the existence of the legislation itself is a violation of privacy rights as there are no effective remedies in place to check 360° surveillance. He told a five-judge Constitution bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra that Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the enrolment body, had previously denied tracking people or using their personal data for state surveillance. It says by design, the technology and architecture of UIDAI precludes the possibility of tracking. “The system is blind to the use at the front end,” Divan said. The senior counsel quoted from UIDAI’s affidavit which said “neither UIDAI, nor any agency or department will be able to use Aadhaar to track or surveil. A user department of the government or agency will only have information pertaining to its own domain. There will be no 360° view of an individual”. “The whole point is to store and integrate information for a 360° view, which is what UIDAI specifically denied on affidavit,” he added.
On this, Justice DY Chandrachud asked if the government was confining itself to social welfare benefits and checking if people receiving benefits are alive or not, and not profiling political beliefs, can’t it have a legitimate concern in ensuring that the identity of beneficiaries is maintained? “Concern can’t justify aggregation of personal data,” Divan responded.
During the hearing, Divan also assailed the concept of State Resident Data Hub, created by various states with data collected for the Aadhaar scheme, saying this mechanism carries potential of abuse. Divan highlighted data hubs created by Madhya Pradesh and Odisha.
Justice Chandrachud asked Divan if the State Resident Data Hub of MP and Odisha governments were not essentially about better functioning of the social security schemes. Divan said he will answer the question about “leakages” in the social security schemes later in detail. The case will continue to be heard on Wednesday.