Aadhaar

Reactions to the Aadhaar Verdict While some have called it a progressive and balanced judgement, others have criticised it. Here's what the experts have to say.

@otuslive

A LOT has been said about the Aadhaar verdict. A five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra ruled, in a 4:1 majority, that Aadhaar meets constitutional provisions and is valid.

While some have called it a progressive and balanced judgement, others have criticised it. The Aadhaar debate is complex and nuanced and has many layers to it.

The judges heard arguments on a clutch of petitions challenging the legality of the Aadhaar act, security concerns over data stored, breach of privacy and exclusion from welfare among others.

The over 1400 pages long consolidated judgement has now been read and experts have weighed in with their opinion and analysis.

In an attempt to help better understand the Aadhaar judgement, here is a reading list of some of the most comprehensive pieces on the verdict.

Interpreting the Judgement

In his piece ‘Methods of Interpretation‘ Apar Gupta, a Supreme Court lawyer who assisted senior advocates who appeared for the petitioners in the Aadhaar case, sheds light on why the Aadhaar judgement needs to be read beyond the boundaries of immediate concerns such as linkages etc and the potential of the judgement to impact future policies and laws.

Gupta notes that there is a need to better understand the impact of technology, used by either state of corporates, especially at a time where there is a great digital push.

Without proper safeguards, Gupta says, “technology can concentrate power and become an instrument of oppression.”

Implementation of the Right to Privacy

Policy and constitution experts Madhav Khosla and Anath Padmanabhan have questioned the interpretation and the application of the right to privacy in the Aadhaar judgement.

The verdict upheld the Aadhaar Act as a reasonable restriction on privacy. However, in their piece for The Print, the duo have argued that the majority verdict of the court never seriously considered the matter of privacy.

The “weak” interpretations of the right to privacy allowed the debate to be diluted to “the right to privacy versus the right to food and other socio-economic rights” instead of looking at the “right to privacy and permissible exceptions to this right.”

An Incomplete Verdict

In his piece ‘Harbinger of uncertainty‘,  Alok Prasanna of the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy says that the verdict has created a “far greater uncertainty” in terms of its interpretation.

The judgement hasn’t clearly answered what is permissible and what isn’t for the government.

He says though the government has struck down the linking of bank accounts with Aadhaar, it has upheld the linking of one’s Permanent Account Number or PAN with it.

So what happens if the government mandates the need for PAN for a bank account or any insurance product.

Another point raised over the ambiguity of the judgement is that of the passage of the Aadhaar Act as a Money Bill.

The court has allowed it but “hasn’t explained in a principled manner as to why the Aadhaar Act is a Money Bill.”

A definitive judgement, says Prasanna, would’ve given the government and citizens “clarity on the boundaries of the right to privacy, identity, welfare, and dignity.”

The Lone Dissenter

Justice DY Chandrachud, the lone dissenting voice, is being hailed as almost a saviour of constitutional rights.

He called Aadhaar unconstitutional and found that violates the right to privacy. His judgement has set the base for challenging many aspects of the majority verdict.

Justice Chandrachud’s fiery dissent has opposed the constitutionality of Aadhaar and its passage as a Money Bill.

You can read the reasons behind his dissenting judgement here.

UIDAI Vindicated

The government and the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the body that issues Aadhaar numbers, have always maintained that Aadhaar is just a to tool to efficiently deliver services, benefits, subsidies and weed out corruption and leakages in the Public Distribution System (PDS).

The UIDAI has hailed the Supreme Court’s verdict with its CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey saying that those who criticised Aadhaar by calling it a tool for denial, exclusions and oppression have “undermined the truth that Aadhaar empowers the people, not the state.”

Pandey believes that the verdict will shape India’s digital future and Aadhaar will prove to be a game changer.

~ENDS~

 

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