The Big Story: Aadhaar impasse
As deadlines to link Aadhaar, a 12-digit unique identity number, to various schemes and services loom closer, another potential date in the Supreme Court flits past with no decision taken on the matter. The case had been scheduled for a hearing in early November and then the last week of November. As of now, there is no date for hearing the main Aadhaar challenge or the plea for interim relief from the deadline to link Aadhaar to bank accounts by December 31. The attorney general argued that it would be better to wait until the Srikrishna Committee’s new white paper on data protection was studied, and that the government was willing to consider moving the deadline to March 31. The caveat is that it may push back the deadline only for those who do not have Aadhaar already. For those who do, nothing changes.
The last time the Supreme Court pronounced on Aadhaar was August 11, 2015, when it ruled that the unique identity number was optional and not mandatory, that it could not be a condition for citizens to claim the benefits due to them, that it could only be used in the public distribution and liquefied petroleum gas schemes. A key question on privacy, which came up in the course of the Aadhaar case, was later sectioned off. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court ruled that the right to privacy was a fundamental right but was silent on how this would affect Aadhaar.
The slow pace of the legal process is in sharp contrast to the speed with which the government has spread the ambit of Aadhaar. The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial & Other Subsidies, Benefits & Services) Act was notified in March 2016 after hastily being pushed through Parliament as a money bill. The identity number is now to be linked to bank accounts, PAN cards, phone numbers and insurance. In many states, it is already required for vital supplies and services like food rations and mid day meals in schools. In short, Aadhaar is to be mandatory for both rich and poor, no matter what the Supreme Court said.
As both court and Centre prevaricate, thousands of apprehensive citizens across the country are bombarded with messages to link their biometric identity number with their bank accounts and mobile numbers. Many will now troop to Aadhaar centres to get the number, while others will rush to get their accounts and phone numbers seeded. This in spite of continuing anxieties about privacy and security. The panic created by the current impasse will probably add more people to the system and widen the Aadhaar net, but it reinforces the impression that the unique identity scheme is being imposed on people without their consent and without legality. To the jaundiced eye, this could look like coercion by another name.
The Big Scroll
Read the Scroll.in series, Identity Project, on Aadhaar and its various ramifications.
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Rayana Naqash reports on yet another Kashmiri schoolboy grievously injured by pellets:
Zahid said that the stone pelters who were the alleged target of the police were on the other side of the road from him. The police could not be reached for their version of their events but have reportedlyorder an inquiry into the matter. Meanwhile, the State Human Rights Commssion has taken suo motu cognisance of the case.
The pellet gunshot wound in his lower right abdomen region has severely damaged his vital organs. According to Saleem Tak, the medical superintendent of the hospital, the impact has “shattered his kidney and gall bladder”. On Monday, Tak said that Zahid’s gall bladder and right kidney had been removed. So far, the family has not told Zahid of the extent of his injuries.
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