The Centre on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that the Aadhaar Act is a “fair and reasonable law”, and that it complies with the standards set by the top court’s verdict on right to privacy, PTI reported. A five-judge Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, is hearing petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar project.
In August 2017, 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. The court held that right to privacy is an “intrinsic part of life and personal liberty”. However, fundamental rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution are subject to reasonable restrictions. Article 21 guaranteed that no individual can be deprived of his life or personal liberty, except according to procedure established by law.
Referring to these reasonable restrictions, Attorney General KK Venugopal told the Supreme Court on Tuesday that the government can seek certain information if there is a law to back it, like in the case of the Aadhaar Act. The other tests to be applied to judge violation of privacy are legitimate state interest and proportionality, which ensures there is a rational connection between a person’s privacy and the state’s interests.
“The Aadhaar Act meets the standards and has adequate safeguards,” Venugopal claimed. “The Aadhaar Act is a just, fair, and reasonable law. It is in pursuance of a larger public interest, including preventing dissipation of social welfare benefits, prevention of black money and money laundering.” These were all “legitimate state interests”, he added. Venugopal claimed the Aadhaar Act has ensured there is minimum invasion of privacy.
The attorney general also read out Unique Identification Authority of India CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey’s answers to the questions posed by the petitioners opposing Aadhaar. He said UIDAI cannot provide state-level data on authentication failure as the authority does not track the locations of the transactions. He added that the biometric failure rates nationally was 6% for fingerprints and 8.54% for iris scans.
“It must be stated that authentication failures do not mean exclusion from or denial of subsidies, benefits or services since the requesting entities are obliged under the law to provide for exception handling mechanisms,” he said.
Venugopal added that a child cannot opt out of Aadhaar after he has become an adult as it is not “permissible under Aadhaar Act, 2016.” But, citizens have the “option of permanently locking their biometrics and only temporarily unlock it when needed for biometric authentication as per Regulation 11 of the Aadhaar (Authentication) Regulations, 2016”, he added.
The arguments are expected to continue on Wednesday.