The Big Story: Fate accompli
When it comes to the government’s Aadhaar biometric ID project, the “fait accompli” argument, by which an act is justified not on its own merit but simply because it has already been carried out, already seems to be operating. The argument against enrollment seem redundant, considering that hundreds of millions of people have already signed up to the 12-digit biometric ID programme almost entirely by illegal coercion.
But this is not the case. The looming deadline for mandatory linking of bank accounts and phone numbers with Aadhaar serves as a reminder to the government that its massive programme rests on shaky territory and could be struck down by the Supreme Court, which is currently hearing petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the identity project. Even though very few people still remain outside the ambit of Aadhaar, they could soon be joined by many many who did not sign up to the programme voluntarily, despite the government’s suggestions to the court, and have chosen not to link their mobiles and financial accounts so far.
This is why the Supreme Court must mandate that the government should push the linking deadline, not just till an arbitrary later date, but until after the judgment is delivered in the matter. The argument at hand is a Constitutional one and is based on the potential violation of fundamental rights. Allowing the government and, worse, private companies like banks and telcommunication companies to pressure citizens to link their data despite the massive privacy concerns that the Supreme Court is currently grappling with is to make a mockery of our justice system.
From the very beginning, the Supreme Court has been warned about the fait accompli argument – the suggestion that since more than a billion people have enrolled in the Aadhaar system, pulling it apart would be folly now even if it were illegal. The court nevertheless chose to wait several years before even setting up a Constitution bench to hear the matter. That delay was reprehensible, but should not become the reason that Aadhaar is allowed to exist.
Other countries, most prominently the United Kingdom, have dismantled similar programmes after it became evident that they led to erosion of civil liberty. India can still do the same and it is important that the Supreme Court recognise the potential for this. It is likely that the deadline for linking will be pushed forward, as the government has indicated. But the Court must ensure it is done in a manner that does not allow the coercion of government and companies to continue. The date must be delayed until after the judgment has been delivered. Anything less would be an eyewash.
The Big Scroll
- Read all of Scroll’s Aadhaar coverage as part of the Identity Project here.
- “It would be morally obtuse and analytically misleading to see this long march as simply a demand for palliatives, subsidies, waivers,” writes Pratap Bhanu Mehta in the Indian Express. “Those constructions are often used to disguise the questions of distributive justice at play, and they reinforce the stereotype of the farmer as a mere victim. The long march is instead a claim for economic agency and rationality, human dignity, political representation, and cultural visibility. It needs to be engaged on those terms.”
- “Unless the left and social democratic parties make certain fundamental alterations in their thinking and methodology, they are bound to wither away and become political relics,” writes MK Narayanan in the Hindu.
- V Anantha Nageswaran in Mint writes about how exchange-traded funds seem to have taken the place of credit default swaps, the derivative instrument that led to the 2008 financial crisis.
- “In the field of politics, very often these men – walking around wrapped in religious-spiritual cloaks – end up becoming panegyrists for the politicians, who play around with them,” writes Sanjay Pugalia in Bloomberg Quint.
Aarefa Johari gives you stories from the farmers’ Long March which saw Adivasi farmers walking 180 kilometres into Mumbai to demand rights.
“‘We are here to demand our forest land that the government has been promising to give us for 20 years,’ said 62-year-old Lilke from Nashik district’s Korat village. ‘We will not leave Mumbai till the government accepts our demands.’
Despite her exhaustion, Lilke sat resolutely amidst the sea of protesters, with a red cap and a red flag bearing the symbol of the All-India Kisan Sangh, the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-affiliated farmers’ association that organised the march. She was flanked by her neighbours and former jail-mates Vatsala Kadal and Babiabai Kadal, both women in their 70s.
‘My feet are full of blisters and I can’t walk anymore, but we all decided we would do this protest on foot, no matter what,’ said Babiabai Kadal, a landless labourer who earns Rs 150 a day by working on other farmers’ fields. However, with erratic rainfall in the past few years, crops have been failing and labour work has been scarce for Kadal, Lilke and other Adivasis from their village. The drop in income has had a direct impact on food availability for their families.”