The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Centre and the Unique Identification Authority of India to respond to a petition challenging the validity of the Aadhaar Ordinance. The ordinance was passed in March.

Retired Army officer SG Vombatkere and human rights activist Bezwada Wilson, who filed the petition, alleged that the Ordinance violates the fundamental rights of citizens guaranteed in the Constitution. They also claimed that the Ordinance “re-legislates the provisions of the Aadhaar Act 2016, which enabled commercial exploitation of personal information collected for the purpose of state”.

According to the plea: “The impugned Ordinance creates a backdoor to permit private parties to access the Aadhaar ecosystem, thus enabling state and private surveillance of citizens and the impugned regulations permit the commercial exploitation of personal and sensitive information which has been collected and stored for state purposes only.”.

The petitioners said private entities with access to Aadhaar database must ensure that Aadhaar numbers and data were not stored. They alleged that the Unique Identification Authority of India sought to commercialise and gain financially through the large-scale collection of private data. The petitioners added that commercialisation of citizen’s data violates their dignity.

In September 2018, the Supreme Court made Aadhaar optional for mobile phones and bank accounts but said it would still need to be linked with Permanent Account Numbers to file income tax returns. The verdict had come after several petitioners raised concerns about privacy, and asked why the unique identity number was made mandatory for people to avail of welfare schemes, file income tax returns, hold mobile numbers, and bank accounts.

The amendments, however, do not comply with the court’s order regarding the Aadhaar Act’s surveillance provisions, which were specifically struck down for want of proper oversight.