Aadhaar verdict: Supreme Court says despite heated debate, not influenced by views expressed

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September 26, 2018 6:41 PM

The Supreme Court said on Wednesday that despite the heated public debate in and outside the courtroom on the validity of Aadhaar, it was not influenced by the views expressed either in favour or against the scheme, which has secured the enrolment of almost 1.1 billion people in the country.

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The Supreme Court said on Wednesday that despite the heated public debate in and outside the courtroom on the validity of Aadhaar, it was not influenced by the views expressed either in favour or against the scheme, which has secured the enrolment of almost 1.1 billion people in the country. The top court said that not only the commoners but the intelligentsia too was equally divided on the issue and there have been a number of articles and interviews for discourse in favour of or against the biometric ID.

A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said, “We clarify that we have not been influenced by such views expressed either in favour or against Aadhaar.” It said that despite the passions, emotions and annoyance exhibited by both sides in equal measure during the arguments, the Court while giving its judgment on the issues involved is required to have calmness coupled with objective examination of the issues on the touchstone of the constitutional provisions.

“The issue has generated heated public debate as well. Even outside the Court, there are groups advocating in favour of the Aadhaar scheme and those who are stoutly opposing the same,” said the bench, also comprising Justice A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan.

Justice A K Sikri, who wrote the majority verdict for himself and Chief Justice Dipak Misra and A M Khanwilkar said: “Interestingly, it is not only the commoners who belong to either of the two groups but intelligentsia is also equally divided. There have been number of articles, interviews for discourses in favour of or against Aadhaar”.

In a 567-page verdict, Justice Sikri said that those in favour see Aadhaar project as ushering the nation into a regime of good governance, advancing socio-economic rights, economic prosperity and in the process they claim that it may make the nation a world leader.

“Notwithstanding the passions, emotions, annoyance, despair, ecstasy, euphoria, coupled with rhetoric, exhibited by both sides in equal measure during the arguments, this Court while giving its judgment on the issues involved is required to have a posture of calmness coupled with objective examination of the issues on the touchstone of the constitutional provisions,” said the verdict. The apex court noted that the very scheme of Aadhaar and the architecture built thereupon has received scathing criticism from a section of the society.

“According to them, Aadhaar is a serious invasion into the right to privacy of persons and it has the tendency to lead to a surveillance state where each individual can be kept under surveillance by creating his/her life profile and movement as well on his/her use of Aadhaar,” it said.

It noted that there has been no other subject matter in recent past which has evoked the kind of intensive and heated debate wherein both sides, for and against, argued so passionately in support of their respective conviction. “The wide range of issues involved in this case is evident from the fact that it took almost four months for the parties to finish their arguments in these cases, and the Court witnessed highly skilled, suave, brilliant and intellectual advocacy, with the traces of passions as well,” the court said.

Referring to the arguments of Attorney General K K Venugopal, the bench said that he had cited various commendations of Aadhaar scheme by certain international bodies, including the World Bank but it was not influenced by such views expressed either in favour or against Aadhaar.

It said that those opposing Aadhaar are apprehensive that it may excessively intrude into the privacy of citizenry and has the tendency to create a totalitarian state, which would impinge upon the democratic and constitutional values. The apex court said ‘Aadhaar’ has become a symbol of a digital economy and opened up multiple avenues for a common man.

The scheme, conceptualised in the year 2006 and launched in the year 2009 with the creation of UIDAI, has secured the enrolment of almost 1.1 billion people in the country, it said. Its use has spread like wildfire, which is the result of robust and aggressive campaigning done by the government, its agencies and other such bodies and has “virtually become a household symbol”.

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