Case Description

A 4:1 majority upheld the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016. While it ruled that the Act is constitutional, it struck down individual sections of the Act as unconstitutional.

Background

On 26th September 2018, the Bench delivered its verdict:

 

In 2011, the Central Government initiated a new identity document known as the Aadhaar Card and established a new agency, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), to issue the card. Aadhaar is a twelve digit unique identity number. The government intended for Aadhaar to be the primary identity number for all legal Indian residents. It has made Aadhaar available to every legal resident free of cost. In order to apply for the card, a resident must submit their biometric data, which includes a scan of their fingerprints and retinas. The UIDAI is responsible for storing the data in a centralized database.

 

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

 

The Aadhaar scheme has been challenged before the Supreme Court by Justice K.S. Puttaswamy, a retired judge of the Karnataka High Court. He claims that Aadhaar infringes upon fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Broadly, his objections include:

  1. The government has not put in place adequate privacy safeguards. Any private entity may request authentication by Aadhaar for any reason subject to regulations by the UIDAI. There are no checks on the power of the government to use the biometric data collected.
  2. Entitlements granted to the individuals by the State's social sector schemes are themselves a fundamental right. They cannot be limited for any reason, including the failure to produce an Aadhaar Card/Number when applying for benefits.

 

On 26th September 2018, the Court delivered its judgment. It upheld the Aadhaar Act as constitutionally valid. It ruled that the Act empowers disenfranchised sections of society by providing them better access to fundamental entitlements, such as State subsidies. The Court held that the Act was competently passed by Parliament, even though it was passed as a Money Bill. The Court held that the Act does not violate the fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 15, 19 and 21.

Issues

1. Whether Parliament was competent to pass the Aadhaar Act as a Money Bill?

2. Does the maintenance of a record of biometric data violate the Right to Privacy?

3. Whether making Aadhaar mandatory for getting subsidies and benefits under Section 7 violates right to equality and dignity?

4. Can the Aadhaar card can be made mandatory for all citizens of India?

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