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Archives for : July2018

SC on verge of decriminalising gay sex, govt leaves it to judges #LGBTQ

‘Consenting Adults Won’t Be Prosecuted’

New Delhi:

The Centre’s decision not to oppose decriminalisation of Section 377, leaving it to the Supreme Court’s “wisdom”, buoyed the court on Wednesday to outline its impending ruling that two consenting adults, even if engaged in “unnatural sex”, will not face criminal prosecution.

The apex court’s pronouncement that it intends to take the view that “two consenting adults even if involved in ‘unnatural sex’ will not be liable for any kind of criminal action or prosecution” brought cheers to the LGBTQ community that has sought relief from the colonial-era law for decades without success.

Uncertainty over the Centre’s stand, given its stout opposition to decriminalisation of Section 377 before the SC under UPA in 2013 after a petition challenged the Delhi HC’s favourable 2009 judgment, evaporated on Wednesday much to the jubilation of the LGBTQ community. Additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta handed over the Centre’s affidavit to CJI Dipak Misra-led five-judge bench, which said, “So far as the constitutional validity of Section 377 to the extent it applies to consensual acts of adults in private is concerned, the Union of India would leave the said question to the wisdom of the court.”

The Centre, did, however, put in a strong caveat that would make its decision more politically palatable. It said in the event the SC declared Section 377 unconstitutional as far as consensual acts of adults in private were concerned, the court should not give any ruling on other connected issues and rights that might flow from legalisation of LGBTQ sexual relations. The bench of CJI Misra and Justices R F Nariman, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra was in broad agreement with the Centre and said the top court would focus only on decriminalising Section 377.

Mehta outlined pitfalls of going beyond Section 377 and warned that it could lead to legalising incestuous relationships between adults or even permit group sex or bestiality as a person could be seen, armed with the right to privacy judgment, to say that such kind of sexual desires stemmed from his/her particular “orientation”, which was part of the right to privacy and right to life.

The ASG’s arguments underlined that an unnuanced interpretation of consenting adults and privacy could prove problematic and even imperil the hard-fought victory for gay rights.

‘Allow LGBTQ members to form associations’

Though the SC bench in general was in agreement with the Centre over sticking to determining the constitutional validity of Section 377 as far is it impeded consensual sexual relations in private between adults, Justice Chandrachud took a 360 degree view of the consequences and said, “I am very concerned about limiting the relationship to sex alone. A relationship between two adults includes a large number of other issues which are intrinsic to right to privacy and, in turn, to right to life.” He added, “If two gay partners are not engaging in a Section 377-like situation but are taking a walk hand in hand, say on Marine Drive, we do not want any moral policing to stop them from doing that.”

The proceedings maintained pace for the second consecutive day despite the sensitive nature of the issues involved, and Wednesday saw advocates Saurav Kirpal, Menaka Guruswamy, Anand Grover, Jayna Kothari concluding their arguments and Shyam Divan’s submissions almost reaching a conclusion. Amid indication that the hearings could be concluded in two more days, the Centre said it would argue only for 15 minuteson Thursday.

Guruswamy raised issues relating to discrimination faced by the LGBTQ community members and wanted that they should also be permitted to form associations. When Mehta opposed this saying the issue was not within the ambit of scrutiny of Section 377, the CJI explained, “Suppose we read down Section 377 and rule that consensual sexual relations between two adults in private is not an offence, the basis for which the LGBTQ community members were barred from forming association gets lifted. Any other disqualification attached to members of LGBTQ community because of ‘unnatural sex’ being an offence under Section 377 would also go.”

The Centre made it clear that it would go so far and no further and said if the SC intends to examine any issue other than the limited scrutiny of the constitutional validity of Section 377, it reserves the right to file a detailed affidavit.

Requesting the SC not to widen the ambit of the scrutiny, the Centre said, “Allowing any other issue (other than the constitutional validity of Section 377) to be argued and adjudicating the same without giving an opportunity to the Union of India to file a counteraffidavit may not be in the interest of justice and would be violative of the principles of natural justice.”

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Kerala Church Rape Case – Priests acted as predators”, says HC; declines bail to 3 Kerala clergymen #Vaw

KOCHI, JULY 11

The Kerala High Court today rejected the anticipatory bail petitions of three priests of a church accused of raping a woman, observing they acted as “predators” and took “undue advantage” of her.

The three — Abraham Varghese alias Sony, Job Mathew and Jaise K George — had approached the court soon after the crime branch of Kerala Police slapped rape charges against four of the five Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church priests, who were accused of sexually exploiting the victim.

“Prima facie the applicants acted as predators…they have taken undue advantage of the position of the survivor,” Justice R Vijayaraghavan said, dismissing their bail pleas.

According to the woman, she was “systematically abused” by the accused, who were all closely known to her family.

The court said it cannot ignore the prosecution’s apprehension that the accused would tamper with evidence and influence the witnesses as the investigation was in the preliminary stages.

“The reasonable possibility of the accused managing to obstruct the course of justice, if released at this stage, cannot be brushed aside,” it said.

The judge said given the gravity of the alleged crime, the evidence present, and the status of the accused with reference to the victim and witnesses, there was a likelihood of the accused fleeing from justice and obstructing its course.

“I am of the view that the applicants are not entitled to an order of pre-arrest bail,” he said.

The court also directed the accused to surrender forthwith before the court of jurisdiction.

Justice Vijayaraghavan said he had “anxiously” considered the submissions and scrutinised the case diary.

The alleged crime was registered on July 2 this year after a senior police officer conducted a preliminary investigation.

“They (the clergymen) were in a position of dominance over the victim and by exploiting the said status, they are alleged to have sexually abused her. The victim in her statement emphatically asserted that the consent was not unequivocal or voluntary,” the judge said.

The woman, he said, has given a graphic description of how she was threatened and forced to succumb to the carnal desires of the accused.

“I find no reason to ignore her statement at this stage or to place reliance on Annexure A1 which does not inspire confidence. The survivor has an explanation of offer for keeping the incident under wraps,” the court noted.

The public prosecutor said the victim had, in her statement to a magistrate, narrated in detail the abuse to which she was subjected.

The statement of the survivor was corroborated by the evidence of other witnesses and electronic evidence in the form of call data records and chat transcripts, he said.

In their bail applications, the priests had rejected the woman’s allegations of sexually assaulting her.

They claimed the case was registered against them solely “under political pressure exerted by certain vested interests to derive political mileage“.

The crime branch registered an FIR against four priests, including the three whose pre-arrest bail petitions were rejected today, after recording the alleged victim’s statement.

The woman’s husband had last month accused five priests of using his wife’s secret confession to “blackmail and sexually abuse” her.

The name of the fifth clergyman was not included for want of substantial evidence.

The incident came to light after an audio clip of the purported conversation of the husband of the alleged victim with a church official about the alleged sexual abuse of his wife by the priests was widely circulated on social media.

Veteran CPI(M) leader and chairman of the Kerala Administrative Reforms Commission V S Achuthanandan and the National Commission for Women had written to the state police chief, Loknath Behara, seeking a thorough probe.

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Assam – Man Lynched For Objecting To Bursting Of Cracker #WTFnews

6 Arrested

The victim, identified as Jatin Das died when the group of ten to 12 people beat him up following an altercation over bursting crackers.

6 Arrested In Assam After Man Lynched For Objecting To Bursting Of Cracker

The victim, identified as Jatin Das, died when a group of 10 to 12 people beat him up (Representational)

GUWAHATI: Six people were arrested on Wednesday after a man was beaten to death in Assam’s Nalbari district when he objected to bursting of crackers at a wedding.

A couple’s nuptials turned into a nightmare on Tuesday night when the 35-year-old man was beaten to death by a group of drunken people for asking them not to burst crackers outside.

The incident took place outside a marriage venue at Ghurathal village in Mukalmua area of the district.

The victim, identified as Jatin Das died when the group of ten to 12 people beat him up following an altercation over bursting crackers.

According to police sources, the men belonging to the bride’s family started bursting firecrackers outside the venue around 11 pm, minutes before the arrival of the groom.

The victim, who was taking a stroll after finishing his dinner, entered into an altercation with the men after they allegedly threw crackers at him.

Following the altercation, the group of men reportedly chased Jatin Das and beat him to death.

Police and CRPF personnel were deployed at the area following the incident. The deceased is survived by his wife and two children.

COMMENT

Meanwhile, the groom has called off the wedding, which has also created tension in the area.

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Internet to remain free and fair in India: Govt approves net neutrality #Goodnews

Pankaj Doval| TNN

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Mobile operators, internet providers and social-media companies cannot engage in, or seek, preferential treatment of content
  • The move is being seen as progressive as it will not allow any operator, internet service provider or internet giant to create a monopoly on the internet

Representative image (Reuters)Representative image (Reuters)

NEW DELHI: In a decision that will ensure that netizens continue to have free and fair access to the internet, the government on Wednesday approved the principles of net neutrality in India.

“Any deviations and violations of the rules of net neutrality – which come into effect almost immediately – will be met with stiff penalties,” telecom secretary Aruna Sundarajan told TOI.

Under net neutrality, online access is unrestricted and non-discriminatory. The only exceptions are new and emerging services such as autonomous driving, tele-medicine or remote-diagnostic services, which may require prioritised internet lanes and faster-than-normal speeds. A committee will look into the possible exceptions for “critical services” which will also be defined keeping in view the basic tenets of net neutrality.

Net neutrality: All you wanted to know but were afraid to ask

Sundararajan said the inter-ministerial telecom commission, which met on Wednesday, gave the go-ahead to net neutrality in the country.

Net

Net neutrality has become a contentious issue across the world as social media giants and mobile and internet providers seek greater control on delivery of content and services to customers. It is feared that handing out greater and unchecked control to them will lead to monopolies and situations of paid prioritisation, both of which will stifle the start-up culture and new innovations.

The US, the world’s biggest internet economy, is yet to take a clear stand on the matter. In May, the US Senate voted in favour of keeping open-internet rules as it attempts to overturn regulator Federal Communications Commission’s decision to repeal net neutrality rules, something seen as difficult in view of challenges at the House of Representatives or the White House.

All those who believe in a fair marketplace should welcome the reiteration that the principles of net neutrality will be upheld in India. This will ensure that those who control the pipes through which data flows – between providers and consumers of content – cannot favour some providers over others. The government now needs to ensure there are no loopholes that could result in an uneven playing field – for instance, companies that own both broadband and produce content should not be allowed to distribute their content free, by not charging for the data. Conversely, other content providers should have the same free access to distribution.

As per the net neutrality rules in India, mobile operators, internet providers and social-media and internet companies cannot engage in, or seek, preferential treatment as there will now be prohibition on any kind of interference in the treatment of content, including practices like blocking, degrading, slowing down or granting differential speeds or treatment to any content.

Moreover, any efforts to create zero-rated platforms have now been blocked. Zero-rated platforms, which had earlier been tried (by companies such as Airtel and Facebook) but barred, offer only a certain category of services and websites as free, thus creating paid layers and stifling competition and innovation.

The government’s decision is being seen as progressive as it will not allow any mobile operator, internet service provider or online/social media giant to create monopolies on the internet by getting specialized treatment by paying for it. The rules of equal access will be maintained and no company can buy special treatment for itself or its services.

Industry analysts said that net neutrality rules will help the culture of startups and innovation as access to the internet and delivery of services will be the same for everyone. “Smaller companies will have the opportunity to grow unhindered with no fear of bigger rivals stifling their opportunities by paying for specialized treatment,” a government official said.

Sundararajan said that net neutrality will come into force through a notification by the telecom ministry, and companies will need to adhere to its principles. Changes to the licensing norms for companies will be made to factor in the new-age rules.

The telecom secretary, who also heads the telecom commission, also said that internet traffic management by mobile companies will be monitored in the new regime. “The telecom department will decide on traffic management rules, and will seek recommendations from sector regulator Trai on the same.”

The government has also decided for the formation of a multi-stakeholder body for the monitoring and enforcement of net neutrality. “Apart from government officials, this will have representatives from telecom companies, internet service providers and those engaged in internet-of-things platforms,” Sundararajan said.

The grounds for net neutrality and free and fair internet was laid by Trai which in November last year recommended that internet access in India should remain non-discriminatory with no restrictions in the delivery of content through practices such as throttling of speed, blocking, paid prioritisation or preferential treatment.

Trai chairman R S Sharma has also advocated for the introduction of net neutrality principles in India. “The overarching goal for us has been that internet must remain an open platform, unhindered by any entity, so that users and customers have a choice to access content of their liking… Nobody owns the internet and thus it should be available to everyone. We seek openness and integrity of the internet.”

TELECOM POLICY TARGETS

  • 50Mbps Download speed for every household
  • Rs 6.5lakh crore Investment in the sector
  • 4 million New job opportunities

TELECOM COMMISSION APPROVES KEY PROPOSALS

  • Net neutrality norms, free and fair access to internet
  • New Digital Communications Policy, to go to Cabinet for final approval
  • Funding of Rs 10 cr per scheme from USOF for pilot projects which will offer connectivity through alternative technologies
  • Setting up of 12.5 lakh WiFi hotspots at cost of Rs 6k cr from USOF
  • Removal of double taxation for virtual network operators (VNOs), will be required to pay levies based on their adjusted gross revenue earned from any value addition

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Either restore Taj Mahal or demolish it’: Angry SC slams govt’s apathy

The top court came down heavily on the Centre, the UP govt and various authorities

[FILE] Tourists visit Taj Mahal in Agra | AP[FILE] Tourists visit Taj Mahal in Agra | AP

Restore the pristine beauty of the historic Taj Mahal or “you can demolish it if you like.”

An angry Supreme Court made these observations on Wednesday as it came down heavily on the Centre, the Uttar Pradesh government and various authorities for their “lethargy” and “apathy” in taking steps to protect the iconic monument, dubbing the issue of its preservation as a “hopeless cause”.

“You (government) can shut down the Taj. You can demolish it if you like and you can also do away with it if you have already decided,” an anguished bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said.

“Uttar Pradesh (government) is not bothered. No action plan or vision document has come yet. Either you demolish it (Taj) or you restore it,” the bench said.

The apex court has been monitoring development in the area to protect the Taj Mahal, built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal at Agra. Its construction was completed in 1643 but work continued on other phases of the project for another 10 years. The ivory white marble mausoleum is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

During the hearing, the bench also drew a parallel between the Taj Mahal and the Eiffel Tower of Paris and said the mausoleum was perhaps more beautiful, but India continued to lose tourists and foreign exchange due to the situation prevailing there.

“There is the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Perhaps it is nothing compared to Taj Mahal. 80 million people come there (Paris). This is eight times more than what we have. You can destroy the Taj, we don’t want to do it,” the court said.

Referring to the Eiffel Tower, the bench said that in India, there were concerns about security, but in other countries, they have made towers like “TV towers” from where tourists can get a view of the entire city.

“We are obsessed with security. At every place (in foreign cities), you have towers to have a bird’s eye view of the city. But in India, you have security problems. There are no such towers to look at the city,” the bench said.

When one of the lawyers said that the vision document was being prepared, the bench shot back, “Will the vision document come after the Taj is demolished? Taj Mahal has to be protected or the Government of India has to decide if it has to be demolished”.

On being asked by the court about the number of tourists visiting India last year, Additional Solicitor General A N S Nadkarni, appearing for the Centre, said the figure was about 10 million in 2017.

“There is sheer lethargy and apathy. People (abroad) are making money, but no one is bothered (here),” the court said.

When Nadkarni said that Union Tourism Ministry could give more details about the tourists visiting India, the bench observed, “Do you realise the loss to the country due to this sheer lethargy? Foreign exchange, infrastructure, everything is lost due to this. There is a loss to tourism. One monument can do it, but there is apathy”.

The top court also observed that despite there being a report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee, which dealt with the effects of pollution on Taj, the authorities have not bothered to take appropriate steps in this regard.

It said that the committee had stated in its report that Taj Mahal is a national pride and heritage and multi-pronged approach was required to preserve and restore it.

During the hearing, the bench was also informed that soon, online booking system would start at Taj Mahal where the tourist would be able to book high-end tickets.

One of the advocates also told the bench that soon there would be time restriction and time slot for the tourists visiting Taj.

Nadkarni told the court that the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur was conducting an assessment of air pollution level in and around the mausoleum and Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) and they would give their report within four months.

TTZ is an area of about 10,400 sq kms spread over the districts of Agra, Firozabad, Mathura, Hathras and Etah in Uttar Pradesh and Bharatpur district of Rajasthan.

Nadkarni also said that a decision in this regard was taken in December last year and IIT Kanpur has started the assessment work.

“Why will it be done during the monsoons when the pollution level is already down,” the bench asked and termed the government’s affidavit in the matter was “vague”.

The bench also took exception to the question why only four ambient air quality monitoring stations were set up at Agra against 22 required.

It directed the Centre to file an affidavit in two weeks giving all details of what has already been done for protection of Taj and what the government intended to do further.

The court said the affidavit filed by the Centre giving some details of steps taken was “absolutely of no consequence” and it should specify every step in detail, along with a time- frame and responsibility and accountability of the concerned departments.

It said that steps taken by the authorities appear to have a “negative effect” on Taj.

The bench also said that since the matter was lingering on for a long time and no concrete steps have been taken to restore the glory of Taj, it would take up the matter on a day-to-day basis from July 31.

https://www.theweek.in/news/india/2018/07/11/either-restore-taj-mahal-or-demolish-it-angry-sc-slams-govt-apathy.html

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Mumbai- 11 -year-old Girl calls 1098, sends father to prison for rape #Vaw

11-year-old, encouraged by a lecture on ill-treatment of children, called child helpline

A special court on Wednesday sentenced a 35-year-old man to 10 years in prison for raping his minor daughter, who, encouraged by a school awareness lecture on ill-treatment and harassment of children, approached the child helpline 1098 herself.

In 2014, the child helpline got a call from the 11-year-old survivor, narrating the torture she was facing at home. She had attended an awareness camp on child rights and remedies in her school and wanted to reach out to someone who could help her. Narrating how her alcoholic father slept with their neighbour and beat her and her brother every night, she said her mother wasn’t there to help so she called the helpline.

Special judge Milind Kurtadikar relied on the statements of several witnesses, including an NGO worker, to convict and sentence the man, a resident of western suburbs, for molestation and rape under the Indian Penal Code and aggravated sexual assault under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses (POCSO) Act.

The prosecution, led by Shankar Erande, examined seven witnesses, to prove the guilt of the child’s father.

Sequentially narrating her experience, the victim said that when she first called up the child helpline and spoke about the harassment meted out to her and her brother, the social worker came over the same afternoon and heard them out. She promised to speak to her father and left. The next day, the girl called the helpline with urgency, as they were being beaten up again.

When the NGO worker spoke to the father, he denied ill-treating his children but later continued his misbehaviour. The NGO worker then brought along the co-ordinator. This time the man gave an undertaking in writing that he would treat his children well.

The 11-year-old girl told the court that as soon as the worker and the co-ordinator left the house, her father threatened to leave her alone; he said he would go away with her brother. The NGO worker visited every month and the man behaved himself for some time.

Suddenly one day, she found him sleeping beside her. He sexually assaulted the child and buried her screams with his hands. Extremely disturbed, she narrated the incident to her neighbour and then to the NGO worker, who encouraged her to lodge a police complaint.

The man denied the assault and alleged that the child was being tutored by the NGO worker. He claimed that his daughter was jealous that he was spending money on his lover’s children instead of his own and this was her way of getting back. However, these claims were rejected by the judge.

https://epaper.timesgroup.com/Olive/ODN/MumbaiMirror/#

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India – Bury this ‘bekaar’ Aadhaar

You can set up a maximum security biometric identity system in a high security facility with all round controlled access but the moment you take it to a national level, it develops any number of leakage points.

Ranjeev C Dubey
Bury this 'bekaar' Aadhaar

After 38 days of hearings over 4 months in what was the second longest case to be argued in India’s constitution history, the Supreme Court finally reserved judgment in the Aadhaar case on May 9, 2018. It may be several weeks before judgement is delivered but already, it is clear that events have overtaken the case: events that may have rendered the whole exercise futile. Curiously, the heat, dust and animated debates over the last years seem only to have clouded the issues, which in themselves are easy to understand.

As the situation stands today, the Supreme Court is called upon to decide amongst others what seem to me to be two key critical questions. First, given the control that government gets over citizens, should any government be allowed to make Aadhaar mandatory? Second, given Aadhaar’s data leak risk, is linking Aadhaar to PAN cards, driving licences, passports, bank accounts, mobile phones, property transactions, and whatever else besides, legally defensible?

Aadhaar started as a simple attempt to create a national data base, which could then be used for the simple task of verifying identity. It worked on the assumption that biometric data is idiot proof and unchangeable. If you have lived long enough to experience aging, a quick review of your old photo album will tell you different. Even if we ignore its false Aadhaar (basis!!), a simple database is not what Aadhaar has become today. It now encompasses all your interaction with the world both private and public. If you want roti, kapra or makaan, leave alone mobile phones and bank accounts, you need Aadhaar. The government wants it to be the ultimately proof that you exist at all. Indeed, the law obliges you to keep it up to date. When your biometrics change, Section 31 of the Aadhaar Act requires you to update your data. I must not forget to mention that you have no access to this data so you really have no way to know if your data has changed.

This is simply the beginning of the Aadhaar’s Kafkaesque nature. To capture your biometric information, the government appointed vast numbers of fly by night low end operators who maintained no visible quality standards. I got my biometrics captured on an ancient computer in a village market on the seedy end of Gurgaon and I could see that my fingerprints looked like abstract art. That may be no problem for the operators since they themselves seem to have no significant obligation to maintain the integrity of their data about me. They could sell it, fake it or even switch it for someone else’s data. The really scary part of this identity card is that unlike a passport, PAN card, driving licence or voter card, you have no means to ascertain what is in the database. If you don’t know which part of you is not you in government records, you can’t get the government to recognise who you really are.

What happens if you can’t prove that you are you? The government says the supplementary OTP will do the trick. Figure this: once the biometric authentication fails, your mobile number is your whole identity! When you had your Aadhaar card made, do you recall if you shared your mobile number with that friendly neighbourhood bucket shop operator? Consider this: once biometric data is compromised, it can never be used again because it is now in the public domain. You have public property!

Let me assure you none of this is scare mongering. Reports of Aadhaar data leaks are common. In May 2017, the Bangaluru based Centre for Internet and Society reported that data of 13.5 crore cardholders had already leaked online. It revealed that four government websites had serious security flaws: National Social Assistance Programme, National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), Daily Online Payment Reports under NREGA (Govt of Andhra Pradesh) and Chandranna Bima Scheme run by Government of Andhra Pradesh. This is only one of about thirty reports Google found for me within seconds. On July 20, 2017, the government admitted that around 210 government websites had been leaking sensitive information including Aadhaar.

The antics of mobile phone companies are the most Orwellian. Aadhaar data was never intended to land up in the hands of private business. The government’s insistence that mobile number be linked to Aadhaar has meant that these companies now have your name, address, Aadhaar card, and e-wallet details. If you use fingerprint security to control access to your smartphone, they have that too. Can you be certain that facial recognition software is definitely not working in the background of your phone? Is your Iris data compromised too? Mobile companies routine sell your information to third party marketing companies. In 2017, the website “magicapk” published a list of leaked personal details of 120 million Reliance Jio users. The website has since been suspended.

Today, we are at a point where the software architecture of Aadhaar has lost credibility too. On July 28th, 2017, the press reported that Abhinav Srivastava, co-founder of Quarth technologies, had created an “Aadhaar e-KYC” app that accessed the UIDAI API without authorisation. On September 10, 2017, in reports of the Kanpur Fake Aadhaar Enrolment scam, authorities stumbled on enrolment software that had been reverse engineered to bypass iris scan authentication for operators. On January 4, 2018, the Tribune reported that access to Aadhaar data could be purchased for as little as Rs 500 on social media. The next day, India Today reported a sting operation where details of Aadhaar card applicants were obtained from enrolment agents for as little as Rs 2 to 5 per applicant.

The latest twist in this tale is the saga of P Santosh Kumar (The Wire July 2, 2018) who paid the prescribed fee and obtained copies of Sale Deeds containing finger prints of persons who had registered property transfers at the local Sub Registrar’s office. The Sub Registrars of many states ask for Aadhaar details as well. Other states have these records digitised and available on-line. Santosh Kumar then inverted the image and used the well know polymer printing technique to create fingerprint moulds. This allowed him to activate 6,000 SIM cards which have a substantial value in the black market where criminals and terrorists pay premium bucks for SIM cards without KYC (or someone else’s KYC). As I said, when Aadhaar fails, UIDAI’s prescribed “biometric locking” requiring the linked mobile phone to be used as proof of identity. If someone can access your Aadhaar number, fake your finger and get a SIM card in your name, fundamentally, your identity is gone and you are toast. That’s for life. Now anyone can be you, for as long as you live, and considerably after that too.

This is why very few countries have ever adopted national UID systems. Malaysia’s MyKad, which dates back to 2001, is one of the oldest biometric identification systems. It is a chip-enabled card and operates as a single point of authentication in places like ATM kiosks, highway toll booths, electronic cash counters and as a public identifier. Malaysia is unique. Only Brazil, Ghana and Indonesia have tried something similar, but none of them have tried to set up a single point all-purpose mandatory identikit. The reasons seem obvious.

It is for the same reason that no first world country has anything like it. The liberal democratic impulse imbedded in post war Europe and America makes it difficult to get a buy in. Indeed, the EU has come up with stringent Data Protection Guidelines that would torch Aadhaar in a minute. America does have its Social Security Number (SSN) tool to ascertain the income of any American individual and calculate the amount of social security credit they’re entitled to based on their individual financial health. The US issues SSNs only to its citizens and doesn’t collect any biometric data of the individuals that are enrolled in the scheme. SSN is a dumb number that attaches to an individual’s profile in a company or US government agency’s database. In that, it’s like a PAN card. Ultimately, there are federal and state-level laws in the US that restrict the use of SSN across different government databases as a marker to identify a person’s identity. In 2007, the US firmly decided against encapsulating its citizens’ biometric profile to the Social Security Number cards. Why have all these countries refused to establish an Aadhaar like system?

This is what it comes down to. You can set up a maximum security biometric identity system in a high security facility with all round controlled access but the moment you take it to a national level, it develops any number of leakage points. It takes too many players to keep the show on the road, and it is impossible to guarantee that every player will be secure. Second, gizmos and software to crack the system are coming on the market all the time: if you can build it, someone can hack it. It’s not that Aadhaar has been terminally compromised: it’s that a system like this will always be easily compromised and in a hundred ways. Given the foregoing facts, is ‘what do we do with Aadhaar’ even a meaningful question to ask? If this is not a disaster already, what more remains to go wrong? Given the brutal and now well-known facts, what is it exactly that we want the Supreme Court to decide for us?

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