Data in the Aadhaar database might be misused to influence the outcome of elections and this could pose a threat to democracy, the Supreme Court observed on Tuesday. Justice DY Chandrachud said he was concerned that insurance and pharmaceutical companies could misuse the Aadhaar data of patients in hospitals, Live Law reported.

A five-judge Constitution bench is hearing a batch of petitions against the Aadhaar programme. Tuesday was the 29th day of the hearing.

“The real apprehension is the data available can influence the electoral outcome of a country... whether democracy can survive if Aadhaar data is used to influence the electoral outcome,” Chandrachud said, according to NDTV. Chief Justice Dipak Misra also said democracy would be in peril if data collected during Aadhaar authentication is misused during elections, Hindustan Times reported.

However, the Unique Identification Authority of India, which operates Aadhaar, claimed that the regulations governing India’s biometric system were more stringent than the European Union’s data security norms. “But a cent percent assurance cannot be guaranteed in respect of anything,” senior lawyer Rakesh Dwivedi, who represented the UIDAI, told the court. “The test should be of reasonable protection.”

When Dwivedi said that apprehensions about the misuse of data were “not real”, Chandrachud insisted they were. “We cannot have a blinkered view of reality, because we are going to lay down a law which will affect the future,” the judge pointed out.

Dwivedi also claimed that private companies, including smart card companies and Google, did not want Aadhaar to succeed. He denied the data could be used to influence elections, as was allegedly done by British firm Cambridge Analytica, because the UIDAI uses a “matching algorithm” and not a “learning algorithm” used by Google.