Lack of safeguards in ID cards questioned

Data base of 1.2b people’s fingerprints and iris scans has never been created

    • By Pamela Raghunath, Correspondent,Gulf news
    •  March 18, 2013

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court today directed the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and central government to decide within three months on a representation questioning the lack of safeguards in the Aadhar card and Unique Identity Number (UID).

The court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Vickram Krishna, Kamayani Bali Mahabal, human rights activist, Yogesh Pawar, journalist, Dr Nagarjuna G., and Professor R. Ramkumar, Tata Institute of Social Sciences. The PIL was filed to challenge the government notification of January 29, 2009 that created the UIDAI, an agency established under the aegis of the Planning Commission to issue UIDs to every Indian citizen.

Advocate for the petitioners, Mihir Desai, told the court that there were serious concerns on the issue of safety systems, privacy and security of the people. A data base of this scale of 1.2 billion people’s fingerprints and iris scans has never been created. Thus, the entire proposition for a population base such as India is completely untested and unproven. The ID system in UK ID Cards’ non-duplication was entirely scrapped. It is estimated that approximately five per cent of any population has unreadable fingerprints, either due to scars, ageing or illegible prints. In the Indian environment, experience has shown that the failure to enrol is as high as 15 per cent due to the prevalence of a huge population dependent on manual labour.

“We, therefore, ask that the project be halted; a feasibility study done covering all aspects of this issue,” urges the PIL.

The Standing Committee of the Parliamentary Report has found the project to be “full of uncertainty in technology as the complex scheme is built upon untested, unreliable technology and several assumptions”. The PIL has held that this is of serious concern given the project is about fixing identity through the use of technology, especially biometrics.

Advocate Desai argued that the UID was promoted as a “voluntary entitlement”. Now, people are being threatened that they cannot access any services or institutions unless they are enrolled for a UID. The petition submitted stated the enrolment for Aadhar is working on an extremely fast pace and that it has become impossible to avoid attempts at enrolment.

The petitioners have submitted that such mandatory, non-voluntary and coercive enrolment for Aadhaar is an affront to their personal integrity, right to make decisions about themselves and the right to dignity enshrined in the Right to Life under Article 21 of the Constitution. The PIL has also indicated that the Supreme court of India has repeatedly upheld the right to privacy within the right to life in Article 21 and any restriction must be justified through rational and reasonable statutory procedure.