The Aadhaar ID programme is here to stay but with some modifications


  • A five-member bench of India’s Supreme Court, led by outgoing chief justice Dipak Misra, upheld the constitutional validity of the Aadhar ID programme.
  • Enrollment in the programme has been made necessary for filing tax returns.
  • However, in light of the threats to an individual’s privacy, a number of provisions of the Aadhar Act of 2016 were struck down.
  • Indians don’t have to hand over their Aadhaar info when opening up bank accounts or getting a mobile subscription. In addition, Section 33(2) of the act, which mandates disclosure of Aadhaar details for the purposes of national security was scrapped.
After four months and 38 days of hearings, the matter has been laid to rest. On 26 September, a five-member bench of India’s Supreme Court, led by outgoing chief justice Dipak Misra, upheld the constitutional validity of the Aadhar ID programme, voting 4-1 in favour of the scheme, and allowed its passage as a money bill. In a verdict read by Justice AK Sikri, the scheme was said to empower the marginalised sections of Indian society.

The bench also found that the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the government agency in charge of the scheme, had taken adequate measures to prevent the card from being duplicated. Enrollment in the programme was also made necessary for filing tax returns through linking with PAN cards.

However, in light of the threats to an individual’s privacy, a number of provisions of the Aadhaar Act of 2016 were struck down. Section 33(2) which mandates disclosure of Aadhaar details for the purposes of national security was scrapped, as was Section 57, under which private companies are allowed to ask for a citizen’s Aadhaar details in order to provide services.

This means that Indians don’t have to hand over their Aadhaar info when opening up bank accounts or getting a mobile subscription. Infact, telecom companies have been ordered to delete all the Aadhaar details of their customers. Additionally, educational institutions will not be allowed to ask for the Aadhaar details of prospective students.

An expected outcome?

While it may have seemed far from a foregone conclusion, there was no way that the Supreme Court could undo the world’s largest biometric identification programme and make the government start from scratch, especially in light of the scheme’s progress so far and the amount invested, which is estimated at around ₹88 billion.

Despite the amount of data leaks and growing privacy concerns, the scheme has enrolled 1.2 billion Indians and allowed a lot of people to access government services. In retrospect, the scheme was always going to be modified to incorporate data security protocols and to allow citizens the option of enrolling.

The modifications to the scheme also reflected a landmark decision made by the Supreme Court in August last year, when it declared that privacy was a fundamental right.
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