Aadhaar Hearing [Day 36]: SC cannot permit something so deeply flawed to function in our country: Shyam Divan

On Day 36 of the Aadhaar Hearing, Attorney General KK Venugopal concluded his arguments on the issue of Aadhaar Act, 2016 being introduced as Money Bill before the 5-judge bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and Dr. AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, Dr. DY Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, JJ. It also marked the end of the submissions of the State and the petitioners began rejoinder post lunch.

Below are the highlights from the arguments advanced on Day 36 of the Aadhaar Hearing:

  • Attorney General KK Venugopal: Article 110(1)(g) is a standalone provision. There can be a bill that does not relate to 110(1)(a)-(g) but is still covered independently under 110(1)(g). Therefore, the Aadhaar bill did not have to to be passed by the Rajya Sabha. RS could only make recommendations.
  • CJI: Section 57 is an enabling provision that allows state legislature to introduce Aadhaar for various services. The state legislature may or may not introduce it as a money bill. It’s nature will then be examined if it’s challenged in a court of law.
  • AG (On Aadhaar SIM linking):
    • Aadhaar is not mandatory to obtain a new connection ,but there will be no chance of forgery and fraud if Aadhaar is linked to SIM card.
    • Aadhaar was made optional as per the direction of the Supreme Court but it will only remain optional till the final disposal of the matter. (SC had denied a few days ago that it had issued any direction to make Aadhaar mandatory for sim in the lokniti case)
    • We are recognizing the interim order passed in the Lokniti Foundation case, and hence making Aadhaar optional for the time being.
    • No core biometrics data is shared under the Aadhaar Act.
    • The State takes offense to the fact that words such as “electronic leash” and “concentration camps” were used.

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  • Senior Advocate Shyam Divan (Rejoinder): 
    • First time in a democracy, something like CIDR has been implemented. SC is at the vanguard of balancing human rights and new technologies.
    • Cannot have a surveillance state in this democracy. Identity of the person, date and time, and location are the three elements of surveillance.
    • On March 9, 2018, state filed an affidavit appending an expert report by Manindra Agarwal of IIT kanpur who is also a member of technology and architecture review board of Aadhaar along with the security review board.
    • UIDAI’s presentation report says that biometrics database is accessible by third party vendors like Morpho, Accenture, identity solutions and one more. Breach of verification log leaks location of places where an individual did authentication.
    • The report admits that tracking of location of a person is possible. Prof. Agarwal has admitted that last five years location data can be accessed with the verification log. Even without the verification log, current location can be tracked. UIDAI knows the location of an individual. Third parties can access the approximate location if the verification log is breached.
    • Experts on both sides now agree that surveillance is possible. It’s not just a privacy issue, it’s a limited government issue. How far does the coercive power of the state extend? Cannot extend to creating an infrastructure that is capable of tracking people.
    • Can we have a law or system that sets up an authority that does not comport with our democracy? I’m speaking about a rudimentary level of surveillance. I’m not even talking about commercial surveillance.
    • State has created a structure of not just CIDR but AUAs and KUAs where all information is being tracked including location. In terms of power and control, the existence of a body like UIDAI is beyond my wildest imagination.
    • The Maninder Agarwal affidavit is a tipping point in this case. He’s careful and says that there are laws to protect us. SC cannot permit something so deeply flawed to function in our country.
    • Is this a case of the emperor who had no clothes? On the point of balancing, I would submit that this is an impairment of Part III of the Constitution. This is a moment in time to take a firm stance.
  • Chandrachud, J: There’s an inexorable march of technology. What are the kind of safeguards that we should take while balancing these rights is something we have to consider. Not like there’s quantitative lack of food in our country. The problem is that people can’t access that food. It is the duty of the State to look into this aspect also.
  • Shyam Divan:
    • Choice and option is important in a democracy. (Jokingly says that Mr. Zoheb Hossain also does not have an Aadhaar.)
    • UIDAI in their answer have said that they do not take responsibility for correct/incorrect identification. They only provide a matching system. It’s a self certification/ declaration system. Please consider this in the context of opening and operating bank account.
    • UIDAI takes no responsibility for correct name, address, date of birth Please consider if this meets minimum standard of rationality. UIDAI hasn’t answered how many authentication rejections have taken place. If you’re successful of performing five authentications in a year, it’s considered hundred percent successful.
    • UIDAI was asked if they verify if illegal immigrants are given Aadhaar. As a 2013 SC order said that illegal immigrants should not get Aadhaar.

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To read the highlights from the submissions of Advocate Zoheb Hossain, click here.

To read the highlights from the submissions of Advocate Gopal Sankarnarayanan and Senior Advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul, click here.

To read the highlights from the submissions of Senior Advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, click here , here , here , here and here.

To read the highlights from the submissions by ASG Tushar Mehta, click here and here.

To read the highlights from the submissions by the Attorney General, click here, here , here and here.

To read the highlights from the PowerPoint Presentation made by the CEO of UIDAI, click here.

To read the highlights from submissions of Senior Advocates Meenakshi Arora, Sajan Poovayya, CU Singh, Sanjay Hegde and Counsel Jayna Kothari, click here.

To read the highlights from submissions of Senior Advocates KV Viswanathan and Anand Grover, click here.

To read the highlights from Senior Advocate Arvind Datar’s submissions, click here, here and here.

To read the highlights from Senior Advocate Gopal Subramanium’s submissions, click herehere and here.

To read the highlights from Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal’s arguments, click here, here and here.

Looking for the detailed submissions of Senior Advocate Shyam Divan? Read the highlights from Day 1Day 2, Day 3, Day 4 , Day 5, Day 6 and Day 7 of the hearing.

Source: twitter.com/SFLCin

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