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illegal biometric identification must be stopped; UK, USA, Australia, France, China have done so

Supreme Court to hear controversial UID case on October 8

October 8, 2013: In compliance with the order of Supreme Court bench
comprising of Justice B S Chauhan and Justice S.A. Bobde dated
September 23, 2013 on biometric unique identity (UID)/aadhaar number
for Centralized Identity Data Registry (CIDR) capturing biometric
details of every resident such as iris scans and 10 fingerprints. By
now central ministries should have de-linked all of its services from
12 digit biometric UID number and UID number generating Home
Ministry’s National Population Register (NPR) and State Governments
should have withdrawn from the MoU they signed with Planning
Commission’s Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). But
Ministry of Petroleum, Home Ministry, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Delhi
Govts decided not to do so. The Court is likely to take them to task
on October 8 when the matter is scheduled to be heard. The Court is
seized with several petitions against UIDAI filed from Karnataka,
Maharashtra, Chennai, Delhi, Rajasthan and other states which have
been bunched together. There is a case against it in Karnataka High
Court as well.

Both the CIDR of biometric UID number and directly linked NPR is meant
for usual residents (which is a universal set whose subset includes
citizens) leads to denial of the constitutional rights to citizens of
the present and future generations. Ministry of Petroleum and Natural
Gas (MoP&NG) has filed the attached ‘Application for
clarification/modification of order dated 23.09.2013” and Jharkhand
Govt is also expected to do so. Notably, the application refers to
UID/aadhaar number as aadhaar card illustrating how it does not want
full facts to be examined by the Court.

It may be noted that the misplaced impression that Supreme Court’s
order on biometric UID does not impact biometric National Population
Register (NPR) as it has no link with entitlements is not true because
NPR also generates UID number in 14 States and two Union Territories,
which are called ‘NPR States’. This means that people in these States
and Union Territories get UID numbers through the NPR.

The usual residents of 14 other States, four Union Territories and the
National Capital Territory of Delhi, that are under the jurisdiction
of ‘UIDAI’, get UID number through the UIDAI. Since the UID number is
generated under both the schemes, and in any case both the databases
are going to be merged as per the terms of reference of the UIDAI, the
Court ruling is directly applicable to it.

But in violation of Supreme Court’s order, Ministry of Petroleum and
Natural Gas through notifications published in the Gazette of India
vide GSR 718 (E) and GSR 791 (E) has made several amendments to the
Liquefied Petroleum Gas (Regulation of Supply and Distribution) Order
2000 (no.10) claiming powers conferred under Section 3 of the attached
Essential Commodities Act 1955 has made UID mandatory. The Section 3
of ESA 1955 gives powers to control production, supply, distribution,
etc of essential commodities. It is inexplicable as to how this
provides a legal mandate to link the UID number with its services.
This implies denial of subsidy to those who do not have the impugned
UID number, which is based on some biometric identification of ‘usual
residents’, unmindful of the fact that the subsidy in question is
meant for citizens. This is a case of manifest inconsistency, because
it does not differentiate between a citizen and a non-citizen.

Despite UID number being legally questionable Planning Commission’s
deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia is continuing enrolment for
biometric UID number based on an Enrolment Form which promises that it
is ‘free and voluntary’ and indulging in a sleight of hand by stating
that by enrolling you give consent for it to be made mandatory through
‘welfare agencies’. He is factually wrong in stating that ‘There is
nothing wrong with the UID arrangement” as the key issue is whether it
should be mandatory. The fact is UID number is constitutionally,
legally, legislatively, politically, historically, democratically and
ethically wrong and the key issue is not whether it should be
mandatory. The key issue is why it should not be abandoned the way it
has been abandoned in USA, UK, Australia, France and China. Even
European Court of Human Rights has ruled that indiscriminate
collection of biometric data is legally wrong. National Human Right
Commission has also expressed its written reservations against it.  It
has huge potential to be used by Nazi party like formations, for
genocide, riots, and massacres and for assault on minorities of all
ilk besides political opponents. It is an attempt take over property
rights over personal sensitive information from citizens for good. It
constitutes colossal and unprecedented assault on privacy and
democratic rights.  Ahluwalia and his subordinate officials like
Nandan Nilekani will have us believe that there is nothing wrong with
Orwellian architecture masquerading as solutions architecture and
public information infrastructure.

The claims of the Solicitor General and Ministry of Petroleum are
questionable. An undated letter (circular) of the Ministry reads,
“…we will restrict LPG distribution only to those who have
registered Aadhaar numbers with the distributor.” This is in direct
contradiction to the submission made by Solicitor General in the
Supreme Court, on the basis of which a special hearing has been
arranged on October 8. It is clear that it has nothing to do with the
subsidy, this is about the supply of LPG itself, with or without
subsidy. Meanwhile, it has come to light that individual companies
have already put in place a process for continuing LPG supplies with
or without aadhaar/UID number and with or without Direct Benefits
Transfer (DBT), hence there can be no disruption or hardship caused by
removing UID from the DBT process as envisaged by the Solicitor

In a bizarre move, three oil PSUs have moved the Supreme Court seeking
modification of its earlier order, but before a different bench of
Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Justice Ranjan Gogoi for an urgent
hearing, according to a report of the Press Trust of India dated
October 6, 2013.

It may be recollected that Punjab and Haryana High Court bench headed
by Chief Justice A K Sikri passed an order March 2, 2013 after hearing
a matter challenging a circular making UID number mandatory. The
moment Court raised questions of laws, the circular was withdrawn by
the central government. The decision underlined that UIDAI is legally
assailable and indefensible. Supreme Court order vindicates the Punjab
and Haryana High Court order, report of the Parliamentary Standing
Committee on Finance and the Statement of Concern dated September 28,
2010 issued by 17 eminent citizens including Justice VR Krishna Iyer,
Prof Romila Thapar, SR Sankaran, Justice AP Shah, KG Kannabiran,
Bezwada Wilson, Aruna Roy and Prof Upendra Baxi seeking halting of the
project. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Subordinate
Legislation is also seized with the compliant dated 18.3.2013 on how
Subordinate Legislation for Biometric Identity is illegal &
illegitimate and constitutional, legal, historical & technological
reasons against UID number scheme.

For Details:
Gopal Krishna, Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties, Mb: 09818089660
(Delhi), 08227816731 (Patna),


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