Representational photo.

Representational photo.  

Activists say it is against Supreme Court judgment

The petitioners in the Puttaswamy case that challenged the constitutionality of Aadhaar in the Supreme Court have sent a legal notice to the State government against making Aadhaar number mandatory for signing into the Integrated Local Self-Governance Management System (ILGMS).

The intelligent e-governance system which provides access to the public to more than 200 services, including applications for birth, death and various other certificates, payment of taxes and raising of complaints and appeals, was launched in 150 panchayats on Monday.

Civil society activists Bezwada Wilson and Kalyani Menon-Sen, the petitioners in the Puttaswamy case, have said in the legal notice that the use of Aadhaar for any purpose other than those strictly covered by Section 7 of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Subsidies, Services & Benefits) Act, 2016, is prohibited by the Supreme Court’s judgment.

Threat of surveillance

If the government proposes to use Aadhaar for any purpose, the Puttaswamy judgment requires that three conditions are fulfilled before such use may be considered — either there should be a legitimate State aim, a law must be enacted to permit such use or it must conform to the doctrine of proportionality. The judgment of Justice Chandrachud, which directly addressed the threat of surveillance arising from the architecture of the Aadhaar project, found the project posed an unconstitutional risk of surveillance. The notice points out that the court had struck down the use of Aadhaar for seeding in bank accounts despite an enacted legislative measure, because it failed the test of proportionality.

Privacy issues

“It is most unexpected that a Left government could promote a clearly illegal and un-Constitutional attempt to deprive citizens of their right to privacy. We know that the bureaucracy has an abiding interest in promoting these techno-managerial ‘solutions’ to disempower citizens while strengthening their own control over systems, but for the political leaders to sign off on this proposal without looking at the deeper implications for the rights and freedoms of citizens, is nothing short of shocking,” Ms. Menon-Sen told The Hindu.

Digital rights organisations Rethink Aadhaar, Article 21 Trust, Internet Freedom Foundation, SFLC.in and Swathanthra Malayalam Computing have endorsed the legal notice.

The government has not yet responded to the notice.

Illegal process

“As per the law, there is no requirement of Aadhaar for any civil registration via offline visits and officers cannot demand it. Online system designs need to respect the same instead of building an illegal process with the use of Aadhaar. Use of Aadhaar shifts the responsibility of verification from issuing officers to an insecure identification system illegally, and takes away the agency of the citizen to produce other identification documents. Now there is no way a citizen can use ILGMS without OTP verification of Aadhaar. Practically it cripples the use of this new system, apart from its illegality,” said Anivar Aravind, public interest technologist and member of Rethink Aadhaar and Swathanthra Malayalam Computing.

IT Secretary Mohammad Y Safirulla told The Hindu that the Aadhar is used only for profile creation in the online application process.

“For availing of any other services, there is no need for Aadhaar. Also, there is no denial of service, because it can be accessed in the offices or through Akshaya centres without an Aadhaar card. It is only for verification purposes that Aadhaar is being used, as the ration card is for the entire family and cannot be used for individual registration and the electoral card is available only for those above 18 years. Still, I have asked the Information Kerala Mission to check whether the system is as per the SC verdict and also to explore whether alternative IDs are possible for login,” said Mr. Safirull