Can Aadhaar-welfare schemes linking, preventing data aggregation be balanced: questions SC


IANS | New Delhi, Jan 30, 2018: 

The Supreme Court on Tuesday questioned if it was possible to strike a balance on linking Aadhaar with the disbursal of benefits under the social welfare schemes and protecting the data on individuals from being aggregated.

If the government says that linking of Aadhaar with social welfare schemes has helped in weeding out ineligible beneficiaries and plugging the pilferage of utgoings, the five judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra wondered if it was "possible for the court to maintain some balance".

"I am not saying that this (concern raised by the petitioner) is not a serious point of concern," said Justice Chandrachud, noting schemes like the rural job guarantee scheme are "large social welfare schemes" that involves the identity of the beneficiaries and "how would we discount the concern of the State."

Having said this, he however asked: "Is it possible for the court to maintain a balance. Some where to draw a point, if government says that linking of Aadhaar with social welfare schemes has helped (in plugging pilferage)."

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The constitution bench is hearing challenges to the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar scheme on the touchstone of the fundamental right to privacy on a batch of petitions by former Karnataka High Court Judge K.S. Puttuswamy, Magsaysay awardee Shanta Sinha, feminist researcher Kalyani Sen Menon and others.

The court's observation came as senior counsel Shyam Divan, appearing for Justice Puttuswamy and others, assailed the way the government was collecting information on individual by mandating linking of Aadhaar with every aspect of life. He described it as "aggregation" of information as some kind of "digital dictatorship".

Senior counsel Kapil Sibal, appearing for another petitioner, said that the government has conducted an audit as to how successful is digital thumb impression reading is, and report reveals that in 49 per cent cases, it has failed. He said that the said report should be placed before the court.

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He wondered how the linking of Aadhaar with driving licence and health care could be justified.

Pointing to the magnitude of the control that government gets over an individual through Aadhaar, Divan said that it is violative of the notion of limited governance, constitutionalism and rule of law.

The hearing will continue on Thursday.