Manufacturing Opinions

Supreme Court Verdict Silences the Noise Surrounding AADHAAR

AADHAAR

Taking a comprehensive view, the Supreme Court of India has finally held the world’s largest tech enabled identity program Aadhaar as constitutionally valid, setting aside as many as around 31 petitions challenging its validity on various grounds.

Attack on Aadhaar became shriller after Modi Government came to power. In fact, same intellectuals who earlier found Aadhaar a ‘Panacea to Poor’ labelled it as ‘Big Brother Project’. The detractors labelled it as ‘dystopian’ leading to an “Orwellian state”. Many had actively spread misinformation on Aadhaar calling it as a “mass surveillance tool”, infringing on privacy.

The apex court verdict by the majority of 4:1 has held most of these misgivings as unfounded.

In light of the verdict, we bring to you the usual suspects from other side of the aisle as well as detractors of the government who were vociferous in their promotion of Aadhaar as an “evil design” of the Modi government.

Criticism: Government using Aadhaar as a tool for mass surveillance

Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister, West Bengal

Stand:

A news report quotes Mamata Banerjee as saying:

“Linking of Aadhaar is very problematic. In name of Aadhaar card, details are being put on websites, which is dangerous for freedom of expression, the society and the country. Why they did this I don’t know. Some people feel happy even after doing bad things.”

Manish Tewari, Congress Spokesperson

Stand:

P Chidambaram, Congress Leader

Stand:

In an editorial, P.Chidambaram made his stand on Aadhaar clear. He wrote:

“Implementing an idea as far reaching as Aadhaar requires careful design, pilot projects, testing and validation, and robust security features. Absent these limiting factors, yet implementing Aadhaar on a mandatory basis, will give the government the instrument and the power to build a mass surveillance system and take one step toward an Orwellian State. Don’t say you were not warned.”

Tathagata Satpathy, BJD Chief Whip and MP

Stand:

The BJD leader raised objections during the Parliamentary debate before passage of the Aadhaar Bill:

“It has been showcased as a tool exclusively meant for disbursement of subsidies and we do not realise that it can also be used for mass surveillance.”

Asaduddin Owaisi, President, AIMIM MP

Stand:

Opposing the Aadhaar Bill in the Parliament, Owaisi made the following statement:

“We are midwifing a police state.”

Jean Dreze, Former Member of NAC

Stand:

Jean Dreze wrote many articles casting aspersions on the intentions of the government in pushing Aadhaar programme. In one such opinion piece, he wrote:

“The Aadhaar Bill opens the door to mass surveillance. This danger needs to be seen in the light of recent attacks on the right to dissent. No other country, and certainly no democratic country, has ever held its own citizens hostage to such a powerful infrastructure of surveillance.”

SC Verdict: The Court’s verdict made it clear that Aadhaar’s architecture does not facilitate surveillance.

Criticism: Government’s passing of Aadhaar bill as money bill is fundamentally unconstitutional

Jairam Ramesh, Congress Leader

Stand:

Congress Leader filed a petition in the supreme court against Aadhaar bill being passed as money bill. P. Chidambaram, Congress leader, appearing for the petitioner Mr. Jairam Ramesh, told the court,

“The Bill was passed without the effective participation of the Rajya Sabha and without the assent from the President. The court cannot save a legislation that is fundamentally unconstitutional”.

SC Verdict: The apex court has made it clear that there was no illegality in Aadhaar Act passed by the Parliament as money bill as it was being made out to be by the opposition.

Criticism: Aadhaar may lead to invasion of privacy and data breach

Rahul Gandhi, President, INC

Stand:

In one of his Tweet, Rahul Gandhi said:

“I’m proud that we took the lead on Aadhaar, but let’s not compromise a great initiative by turning a blind eye to major privacy & security concerns.”

Barkha Dutt, Journalist

Stand:

  • Barkha Dutt attempted to spread the narrative that UIDAI number appeared on her mobile phone without her consent, violating her privacy.
  • She even went on to wonder that she was probably under surveillance. Google admitted that the number was “inadvertently coded into the SetUp wizard of the Android release”

SC Verdict: Justice Bhushan reading his verdict categorically rejected the argument that revealing demographic information for Aadhaar amounts to violation of Right to Privacy. The Court also observed that “minimal demographic & biometric data of citizens are collected by the UIDAI for Aadhaar enrolment. Aadhaar number given to a person is unique & can’t go to any other person“.

Criticism: Aadhaar deprives people of their entitlements

Shashi Tharoor, Congress MP

Stand:

In one of his opinion pieces Shashi Tharoor wrote:

There have been numerous incidents reported in the media where machines meant to authenticate Aadhaar number holders have failed to do so, due to lack of internet connectivity, or electricity, or other adequate facilities in rural areas. This has denied many people their ration supplies, in violation of their rights. A scheme meant to help the poor is depriving people of their entitlements”

SC Verdict: The Court, in its verdict, has observed that Aadhaar empowers the marginalised section of the society and gives them an identity. It further turned down the argument on exclusion saying that, “Lot of people who will benefit due to inclusion cannot be denied due to exclusion of few. We can’t throw baby out with bathwater.”

Misinformation Campaign Against Aadhaar

If manufacturing opinion on Aadhaar wasn’t enough, attempts were also made to malign the programme by planting and promoting fake stories. A case in point was the story about data theft from UIDAI published in ‘The Tribune’ on January 04, 2018 by Rachna Khaira.

Later, the UIDAI refuted the data breach and filed a FIR against the accused. However, before it was refuted, the usual suspects from the Congress and the Left wasted no time in spreading the fake news:

Conclusion

Supreme court has thus put all the above allegations of mass surveillancepolice state, fake Aadhaar cards, violation of privacy and unconstitutionality into the bin as they were not more than an organised campaign to defame the government. We have already explained this in one of our earlier articles as to how the narrative on Aadhaar has changed after 2014. Today’s verdict has also caught many opposition leaders and detractors of the Modi government off guard and most of their unfounded criticisms did not resemble with what the apex court held in its majority judgement. On a positive note, this verdict empowers the government of India to continue to leverage Aadhaar cards as a tool to realise the vision of development for all.

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