Aadhaar: India Supreme Court upholds controversial biometric database

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"Aadhaar identification is unparalleled", Justice Sikri, who has authored the judgment on behalf of himself, CJI Dipak Misra and Justice AM Khanwilkar, said in opening remarks.

Justice Sikri's judgment also upheld Section 139AA OF Income Tax Act.

It's worth noting that the government had earlier made Aadhaar mandatory for availing a host of benefits such as schemes for the below poverty line category, LPG subsidies, midday meals in schools, etc.

There is a fundamental difference between Aadhaar and other identity proof as Aadhaar can not be duplicated and it is a unique identification.

The SC struck down the provision that prevented individuals from filing cases under the Aadhaar Act.

Addressing a press conference in the national capital, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader hit out at the critics of Aadhaar, saying those criticising the unique identification scheme need to understand that they "cannot defy technology". The Aadhaar litigation in the Supreme Court has now spanned over six years while at least 26 judges have heard this case at various points in time.

In 2012, a former High Court judge, K S Puttaswamy, filed a petition stating that Aadhaar violated fundamental rights like equality and privacy.

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The brainchild of the UPA government, the Aadhaar Bill was passed by the Narendra Modi government in 2016, with the mode of the passage of the Bill itself raking up controversy. They envision a future where Aadhaar forms the core of a digital identity that could eventually include every Indian's health records, credit scores, e-signatures, criminal backgrounds, welfare entitlements and other data.

In order to delink Aadhaar from a bank, account holders must submit an application addressed their respective bank stating the reason to revoke consent for storing e-KYC data.

The court has also ruled that the UIDAI can not retain authentication records for five years. Previously in January 2018, a five-judge bench of the apex court began a fresh hearing on the Aadhaar case which went on to become the second-longest running hearing in the history of the Supreme Court - spanning 38 working days and almost five months.

Essentially, citizens won't need to link their Aadhaar cards with banks or mobile numbers. In a separate hearing, the apex court agreed to live-streaming and video recording of its proceedings.

Issues with the UIDAI's enrolment procedure that raised concerns about data breaches were also put forth. The Aadhar authentication data can not be stored for more than six months, it added. Last year, the Supreme Court had ruled that the right to privacy was an "intrinsic part of life and personal liberty", guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution.

The apex court's five-judge Constitution bench said Aadhaar was meant to be "unique" and it was better to be unique than being best.

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