Retired Karnataka high court judge, Justice Anand Byrareddy has filed an interlocutory application before the Supreme Court to add himself as one of the petitioners challenging the provisions of the Aadhaar Act 2016.

According to a detailed report on Livelaw.in, Justice Byrareddy highlights that the Act does not distinguish between citizens and non-citizens, alleging that this leaves the system open to abuse and poses a “serious security threat”.

The highlights of the application include:

  • The Act fails to account for and be responsible for the welfare of the country’s citizenry as it “fails to distinguish between a citizen and resident/migrant/immigrant (legal and illegal)”.
  • The act violates the Fundamental Right to privacy guaranteed under Article 21, “since the biometric and demographic information is collected as a mandatory condition precedent, while the safeguard mechanisms provided are wholly inadequate.”
  • The act seeks to create “a wrongful classification amongst a homogeneous group of entitled persons – (i) the ones with an Aadhaar number; and (ii) the ones without an Aadhaar number, the same is arbitrary.”
  • Although the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is in possession of the data, it has no legal liability for any theft, fraud, crime, and compromise of any security or privacy.
  • The passing of the Aadhaar Bill as a Money Bill “amounts to a fraud on the Constitution of India.”

Justice Byareddy had initially filed a separate petition against the implementation of Aadhaar which was dismissed by the apex court. But he was given the liberty to file and interlocutor application and implead himself in the pending petitions. Former Karnataka high court judge, justice KS Puttaswamy, is the lead petitioner in the Aadhaar cases.

Aadhaar eKYC: The core privacy concern

A report by Privacy International, an international organisation which advocates the right to privacy, noted that the scope of Aadhaar eKYC changed over the years which put people’s privacy at risk. It cited the different legislation which was brought up by the UPA government and the current BJP government.

Under the initial implementation of the Aadhaar database had only a single purpose: do the biometrics of a person match those stored for their Aadhaar number?

“So, when someone is seeking to authenticate their identity using Aadhaar, they do so either with their biometrics (either a fingerprint or an iris scan) or through a one-time pin (OTP) sent to their registered mobile number. This is checked against the data held in the Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR) database, and the reply is done on a “yes/no” basis: an individual’s Aadhaar number, and their biometric data or an OTP, is transmitted to the CIDR database, and an answer of only “yes/no” is returned,” the report said.

A legislation was drafted in 2010 called the National Identification Authority of India Bill where it stated that no other information other than the yes/no response could not be given. “However, this version of the legislation failed to pass both houses of the Indian parliament, and did not become law,” it said.

But the Aadhaar act drafted by the current government in 2016 called ‘Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, benefits and services Bill’ has some key changes. Rather than simply being the yes/no response originally proposed any other appropriate response sharing such identity information excluding any core biometric information is allowed.

Karnataka government on board with Aadhaar

Meanwhile, the Karnataka state cabinet approved the central legislation to provide statutory backing to the Aadhaar for use of transferring government subsidies and benefits. “The cabinet gave its nod to the Target Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services Bill, 2016, which was passed by Parliament,” Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister TB Jayachandra told reporters on Tuesday.