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Case Description

This case will decide the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016.

Background

In 2011, the Central Government initiated a new identity document known as the Aadhaar Card which was to be issued by a new agency, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). This card would be the basic identity card in India and would be available to every resident of the country free of cost. However, to get this unique identity number, every resident would submit their biometric data which includes a scan of their fingerprints and retinas. This information would then be housed in a governmental database.

The Government progressively made the Aadhaar Card mandatory for numerous welfare schemes. These include subsidised food under the Public Distribution System, labour for wages under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and the Mid-Day Meal Scheme provided to school children.

The Aadhaar Scheme has been challenged before the Supreme Court by Justice K.S. Puttaswamy, a retired judge of the Karnataka High Court alleging several infringements of fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution. These objections are, broadly:

That there is no adequate safeguard for the privacy of an individual. Any private entity may request authentication by Aadhaar for any reason subject to regulations by the UIDAI, and there are no checks on the power of the government to use the biometric data collected.

That the entitlements given to the people by the government under social sector schemes are themselves a fundamental right and cannot be limited for any reason including non-production of an Aadhaar Card/Number.

The government had argued that India has no fundamental right to privacy at all and that the Government is well within its powers to make the Aadhaar card mandatory for any reason. It has also argued that such a measure is necessary to prevent corruption and leakages in welfare schemes across India, and its absence has cost the State an untold amount of money.

Issues

Whether the Aadhaar card can be made mandatory for all residents of India.

Whether the citizens of India have a fundamental Right to Privacy.

Whether the maintenance of a record of biometric data violates the Right to Privacy.

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