Supreme court: Aadhaar verdict #38

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Syllabus: GS 2– Governance

'Aadhaar is a game changer in a poor country like India where the citizen even lack a basic identity document'. Discuss the importance of aadhaar in light of the recent Supreme court verdict.

Why in news?

  • On 26th September 2018, after six years of litigation, the Supreme Court’s five-judge Constitution Bench has given a landmark judgment declaring Aadhaar as constitutional.
  • SC ruled that Aadhaar ensures the dignity of individuals and empowers marginalised section of the society.
  • The Court has held that Aadhaar’s architecture does not create a surveillance state.
  • It has gone on to say that “the Aadhaar Act meets the concept of limited government, good governance and constitutional trust”.

What are the four important decisions that the SC came up with?

  • First, it strikes down section 57 of the Aadhaar Act.
  1. Section 57 was used by the government to compel private companies to demand Aadhaar verification for services.
  2. The Court accepted the argument that no rationale exists for this power and declared it invalid.
  3. Consequently, the Court has struck linking of Aadhaar with mobiles and bank accounts.
  4. It has further directed that the data collected shall be deleted within six months.
  • Second, it transfers sovereignty and ownership of data back to the citizen to whom it belongs.
  1. The Aadhaar law did not give ownership rights to the individual but to the Unique Identification Authority of India.
  2. In case of a breach or misuse of his or her data, the individual had no legal remedy which has been rectified with citizens now having the right to file cases against the government in case of misuse or theft of their data.

 

  • Third, no citizen can be denied benefits if there is a failure of Aadhaar authentication.
  1. Various citizens had been denied basic services as they did not have an Aadhaar number.
  2. This will help citizens who were unable to get an Aadhar card, particularly the marginalised and underprivileged sections of the society.
  • Fourth and perhaps most important that the decision of the Speaker of the Lok Sabha on whether a Bill can be classified as a Money Bill can be subject to judicial review.
  1. Prior to this landmark decision, the Speaker enjoyed almost complete immunity from judicial review.
  2. The judgment would instil a fear in minds of lawmakers that taking the money bill route will no longer save them from the court’s scrutiny.

 

How has been the journey of Aadhar till now?

  • After more than six decades of Independence, 60 per cent of India’s 1.2 billion people did not have a basic identity document.
  • By and large local ID documents were used and they became unrecognisable when a person crossed the boundaries of his home state.
  • That was perhaps why a majority of the country’s population did not have a bank account.
  • Against this backdrop, a technologically complex identity programme then called the Unique Identification (UID) Programme, was launched.
  • In 2016, Parliament provided the legislative basis to Aadhaar by enacting the Aadhaar Act.

 

What are the benefits of Aadhar?

  • Unscrupulous people had manipulated the system by creating ghost and duplicate entities and usurped the benefits intended for the poor.
  • It is well-known that only 15 paise of each rupee spent on welfare programmes reached the intended beneficiaries.
  • Aadhaar helped the government renovate the delivery system and ensure targeted, hassle-free, direct, portable, real-time, auditable delivery of services, benefits and subsidies, free of middlemen.
  • Aadhaar has led to the elimination of crores of ghost and duplicate ration cards and fake MGNREGS job cards & has checked frauds in pension payments and other government schemes including those that benefit students.
  • It will help to curb tax evasion, money laundering, shell companies and benami transactions and bring in financial discipline and greater tax compliance.
  • In the past three years, it has saved the government more than Rs 90,000 crore.
  • The World Bank’s Development Report on Digital Dividends 2016 estimated that the use of Aadhaar in all the Centre’s benefit and welfare schemes could save the government over US $11 billion annually by reducing leakage, and through efficiency-related gains.

 

What is the way forward?

  • Aadhaar will undoubtedly be a game changer for the poor and the country as a whole.
  • Every technology has some risks and a mature society must take measures to mitigate risks and not abandon the technology.

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