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Aadhaar bill passed in the Lok Sabha; privacy concerns?


The Aadhaar Bill 2016 was passed in the Lok Sabha today. The bill was passed in the lower house of Parliament and was introduced as a money bill which bypassed voting in the Rajya Sabha. A money bill exclusively contains provisions for imposition and abolition of taxes, for appropriation of moneys out of a consolidated fund. The Rajya Sabha cannot make amendments in a money bill passed by Lok Sabha

The government’s opposition, the Congress, currently sits in majority in the Rajya Sabha where the bill might have got stalled.

Earlier in the budget, finance minister Arun Jaitley said that the government will enact a law where Aadhaar will be given statutory backing. The finance minister also said that the government will develop a social security platform using Aadhaar to target intended beneficiaries.

A PTI report said that Jaitley rejected opposition demand for referring the Aadhar Bill to a standing committee. Jaitley also said that proposed law will help in targeting government subsidy at intended beneficaries which will result in a lot of savings.  BJD member of Parliament B Mahtab had expressed concerns over possible “invasion of privacy” if it in its current form becomes a law. Mallikarjun Kharge (Cong) and P Venugopal (AIADMK) supported the BJD MP’s remarks.

The Aadhaar bill in its current form has several privacy issues as it would make it mandatory for the people to get government benefits. However, personal details can be shared in the “interest of national security”, though the government does not define what is national security. More on the privacy concerns here.

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Supreme Court rulings 

The Supreme Court is currently hearing a petition regarding the privacy issues around the Aadhaar project. The Central Government argued that citizens were entitled to waive their fundamental right to privacy (assuming that privacy is a fundamental right) in return for the governmental benefits. More on that here.

In August 2015, the SC had made Aadhaar optional except for public distribution system and LPG connections. Various State governments, including Gujarat and Jharkhand along with central bodies such as RBI, SEBI, TRAI and the Pension Regulatory Authority returned to the court saying the August order had become a roadblock for people with Aadhaar to enrol in other social benefit schemes.

Earlier in 2014, the Supreme Court had ruled that Aadhaar cannot be mandatory for any government service.

The court had passed an interim order in 2013 stating that Aadhaar cards should not be mandatory for social services, after a PIL was raised by Karnataka High Court judge KS Puttaswamy. He claimed that various state governments had linked social benefits to Aadhaar and that this had resulted in many people losing these benefits.

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