Aadhaar Data Collection By Private Firms Condemned By Supreme Court; Termed As ‘Not A Great Idea’
The ongoing legal confusion over Aadhaar Card, its validity and the methods of data collection for the same has once again come under scrutiny by the Supreme Court. While hearing a case on its legal status, the Court condemned the practice of Aadhaar data collection by private companies.
A bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar said, “We are not inclined to give immediate hearing as there are limited resources but biometric data collection by private agencies is not a great idea..”
The bench also constituted of Justices N V Ramana and D Y Chandrachud.
This is the second major setback for the Govt. in relation with winning the legal mandate for Aadhaar Card in the country.
In September last year, the apex court had declared that Aadhaar Card is not mandatory requirement for Indian citizens in order to avail Govt. welfare schemes.
Later, in order to be on the right side, Govt. had to issue a notification stating that Aadhaar Card is not a compulsory for any Indian citizen, in case he or she wants to avail any Govt. sponsored program.
Minister of State for IT and Electronics P P Chaudhary had to give a written a reply on this issue in December last year, when he quoted Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act.
Legal Bottleneck On Aadhaar Continues?
The recent observation by Supreme Court regarding Aadhaar’s data collection by private companies came up during a hearing of case which challenged the legal & constitutional validity of Aadhaar card, and the way data is being collected without adhering to global practices of data security.
One of the petitioners in this case, Senior Advocate Shyam Divan actually pressed for a speedy trial and hearing of the case, as it concerned privacy issues of Aadhaar card users. The issue here was sensitive biometric data of Indian citizens, which are now being collected and stored by private agencies.
Although the bench refused to expedite the hearing, but their observation stating that the involvement of private companies in data collection is ‘not a great idea’ will surely give strong signals to the Govt.
Why Govt. Is Desperately Seeking Legal Backing for Aadhaar?
Govt. of India has made some high level, concrete plans related with the usage and adoption of Aadhaar Card in the country.
For instance, recently, Govt. announced a major incentive scheme worth Rs 100 crore for encouraging small traders and merchants to use Aadhaar card based digital payments (which would be cashless and pinless).
Last year, Govt. pushed for linking every smartphone with Aadhaar Card, and even forced smartphone manufacturers to go for it. Now, Aadhaar Card being a sensitive issue, collection of such huge amount of biometric data and other information and then linking it with smartphones is not a small issue. And naturally almost every smartphone maker resisted this idea.
In September last year, Govt. had converted the Aadhaar Bill (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) as money bill, and passed it in the Lok Sabha, where they are in majority.
But still, Supreme Court’s final verdict on this sensitive issue is awaited.