Aadhaar case gets under way; petitioners say it alters Constitution

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"If the Aadhaar Act is upheld, then in the alternative, no citizen should be deprived of any right or benefit for the lack of an Aadhaar card", Divan added.

The court was told this by the senior counsel Shyam Divan as the Constitution Bench, also comprising Justice A K Sikri, Justice A K Khanwilkar, Justice D Y Chandrachud, and Justice Ashok Bhushan, commenced hearing on a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhaar Act on the grounds of its being violative of the right to privacy.

Divan told the five-judge Constitution bench that "Aadhaar may cause the death of citizens" civil rights.

The Aadhaar project is run by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) which collects personal and biometric data such as fingerprints, facial photographs, and iris scans, and issues 12-digit individualized identity numbers. According to him, the Constitution balances rights of an individual against the State interest but Aadhaar upsets this balance and "skews the relationship" between the citizen and the State. Referring to the introducer system - a person had to be introduced by a person already with Aadhaar - Divan said this was meant for people who did not have any identity since the government argument was that there were many who did not have any identity and Aadhaar was intended to help them.

He drew the court's attention to the Aadhaar enrolment form, as it existed prior to the enactment of the Aadhaar legislation of 2016.

Divan, arguing against the consitutional validity of Aadhaar, questioned if the Constitution allows so much power to the government.

Divan argued the government has rolled out a programme that seeks to "tether every resident of India to an electronic leash" and enable the State to profile citizens, which will ultimately help it stifle dissent. "Where every basic facility is linked to Aadhaar and one can not live in society without an Aadhaar number, the switching off of Aadhaar completely destroys the individual". The petitioners also questioned the introduction of Aadhaar Act as a Money Bill in the Lok Sabha, arguing that the law must fall for this reason alone since "it is a colourable legislation". "The Constitution is not a charter of servitude".

Whether the Constitution sanctions the creation of a surveillance state and surveillance society where routine and regular every day transactions are recorded by the State. All rights, he said, have now been made conditional on a "compulsory barter". He argued that the government can not compel citizens to part with their information to a private party not under anybody's control.



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