Aadhaar and its History with contempt of court

After the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) filed a police complaint against 3 firms for illegal use of Aadhaar biometrics, the debate on the security of data collected and stored under the Aadhaar project is heating up.

Background:

In 1998 after the Kargil war, the Kargil Review Committee, headed by security analyst K. Subrahmanyam made the proposal that citizens in villages in border regions be issued identity cards on a priority basis, with such ID cards issued later to all people living in border states.  

In December 2003 the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2003 was introduced in the Lok Sabha by L. K. Advani. It primarily aimed to provide various rights to persons of Indian origin.  The bill also introduced Clause 14 (a) that said: "The Central Government may compulsorily register every citizen of India and issue national identity card to him.”

The Aadhaar project was established in January 2009 by the government of India, under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, following the provisions of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, benefits and services) Act, 2016.

Aadhaar numbers will eventually serve as the basis for a database with which disadvantaged Indian residents can access services that have been denied to them due to lack of identification documents. It is an attempt towards having a single, unique identification document or number that would capture all the details, including demographic and biometric information, of every resident Indian individual.

Analysis:

Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) states that  "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks."

Article 21 of the Indian Constitution states that “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.”

Chapter 3, Article 6 of the Privacy Protection Bill of 2013 states that No person shall collect any personal data of another person without obtaining the prior consent of the person to whom it pertains and such consent may be obtained in any manner, and through any medium, but shall not be obtained as a result of a threat, duress or coercion.

 The Supreme Court’s six orders from September 23, 2013 to October 15, 2015 represent the efforts of the court to rein in the project, and the state, from using coercion as a means of forcing people into submission. In an application to the court in early October 2013, the UIDAI asked the Supreme Court to modify its order so that the government could “insist upon Aadhaar”.

The court was not moved. After that, there was an order on March 24, 2014, and three orders in 2015 where the court said again, and again, and again and again that the UID cannot be mandatory; enrolment cannot be compelled.

Private companies, such as OnGrid, BetterPlace, TrustID, have begun to profile and trade on data about individuals using the UID system. The digital economy is being pushed based on the UID system, where those who do not have mobile phones are to depend on their biometrics, when biometrics are failing for large numbers of people in PDS and NREGA. 

Data is being projected as the new property; detailed personal information can be viewed individually or through algorithms.

The implementation of compulsion has forced people to get on to the database, without an opt-out provision and part with their biometrics – which is then managed and handled by companies of dubious provenance – and with no recourse when biometrics fail

Assessment:

Our assessment is that the forcing of people to use the Aadhaar is coercion, and is illegal and an outrageous contempt of court orders. We feel that the methods currently in use by the project destroy the idea of consent and must not to be allowed to proceed as it does in violation of the Indian Constitution and Privacy acts everywhere.