The Centre had managed to save $9 billion (more than Rs 58,000 crore) by eliminating fake and duplicate beneficiaries of government schemes through the Aadhaar programme, former Unique Identification Authority of India chief Nandan Nilekani said. Aadhaar now has a more than a billion people registered on its system, he added.

The architect of Aadhaar was speaking on digital economy at a World Bank panel discussion. “We have about half a billion people who have connected their ID directly to a bank account,” Nilekani said. “I am a big believer that if you build the right digital infrastructure then you can leapfrog.”

The non-executive chairman of IT giant Infosys said Aadhaar, which was launched by the previous United Progressive Alliance government, was supported by the current government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Carrying out cashless transactions through mobile phones has brought down the costs for the government, he added. “Once you bring cost down, automatically inclusion happens.”

Nilekani claimed that although the Supreme Court had declared privacy as a fundamental right, it has also allowed the government to make changes in order to achieve a state objective. “It says for national security, for prevention of crime, protection of revenue, or for social welfare,” Nilekani said. The question of whether Aadhaar violates this fundamental right is yet to be taken up by a five-judge Constitution bench.

On August 24, the Supreme Court had ruled that the right to privacy was a fundamental right protected under Article 21 of the Constitution, which upholds the right to life. However, fundamental rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution are subject to reasonable restrictions. In this case, Article 21 guarantees that no individual can be deprived of his life or personal liberty, except according to procedure established by law.