Aadhaaris a long running debate in the parliament, introduced initially as an uniqueidentification number allocating system by UIDAI. The authority set up aCentral Identities Data Repository for storing details, including demographicand biometric information of Indian residents, an institution promoted as awelfare scheme essential to facilitate better public access to benefits.However, amidst peak of Aadhar enrollment in 2015, a Constitution bench of theSupreme Court ruled that Aadhaar may be used for availing government schemes,but the same could not be made mandatory. In its ruling, the court mandateallowed for use of Aadhaar to avail benefits of food security schemes, NREGS,pension schemes and Jan Dhan Yojana. Until March, 2016, when it was reintroducedin the parliament as a money bill, UIDAI existed without the backing of a legalframework.
To now provide statutory backing to Aadhaar enabled targeteddelivery of subsidies and services to individuals residing in India, a newmoney bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha, that incorporated clauses to keeppersonal information of individuals discreet. Prior to passing the Aadhaar Law,the government tried to make Aadhaar mandatory, thus violating the supremecourt order on numerous occasions. In anydemocracy, debate around the formation of laws between the ruling party andopposition is paramount to upholding provisions of the Constitution.The mostcontentious being the Section 7 of the new act, which lays down the requirementof Aadhaar in availing government benefits, and in case an individual hasapplied and has not been assigned a number, the government will offer an “alternativemeans of Identification.” The dispute around this provision contests whethermaking Aadhaar mandatory for welfare schemes leads to massive exclusion errorsbecause of lack of universal access to cards and the infrastructurally deficitcountryside. In doing so, the law circumvents the Supreme Court order by makingenrollment for Aadhaar “voluntarily mandatory.
” Theprovision for private agencies to use Aadhaar, one that contradicts theStatement of Objects and Reasons of the bill stating primary use of UID numberin effective targeting of schemes has faced criticism. Another potential sourceof worry for the public is that Aadhaar may be endangering the Right toPrivacy, wherein the state is responsible for creating a situation enticingcitizens to voluntarily part with their bank account details, fingerprints,iris scans and so on – for access to benefits they are already entitled tounder a welfare state. Endangering privacy is the feature that the bill doesnot specifically prohibit law enforcement and intelligence agencies from usingAadhaar numbers as a link across various datasets (such as telephone records,air travel records, banking transactions, etc.) in order to map behaviour andprofile individuals.
Findingsfrom surveys and studies conducted suggest that making Aadhaar mandatory leadsto exclusion of rightful beneficiaries. Considering these arguments, there is aserious need to assess the legal framework of the law in terms of the violationof rights it may cause as well as the potential threat for misuse of thedatabase of personal information of billions. The function of the law in ademocracy as unique as India depends entirely on how the society responds to itand how much attention is paid to the nitty-gritty of the legal supportingframework for Aadhaar.