The Madras High Court has rejected the plea of a teacher who challenged an Aadhar enabled biometric attendance system by the Tamil Nadu government for teaching and non-teaching staff government schools. (Order copy, provided by LiveLaw) The court had directed the government to implement the Aadhar-enabled biometric attendance system in all government schools and government-aided institutions as per the Government policy and as expeditiously as possible, so as to ensure proper attendance to the teaching and non-teaching staff working in all educational institutions.
Petition challenging Aadhar-enabled biometric attendance
R. Annal, the petitioner, is a teacher in Government High School in Kanyakumari District of Tamil Nadu. She challenged the introduction of Aadhar-based biometric attendance system, on the ground that its mandatory implementation would cause an infringement of her Fundamental Right to privacy and Right to dignity, autonomy and free choice, as guaranteed under the Constitution.
The petition contended that she has not enrolled her under the Aadhar Act as it is not mandatory. This was based on the Constitutional bench’s judgment in the Aadhaar Case, putting forward the argument that a mandatory requirement to register under the Aadhaar Act for employment was held as unconstitutional.
Madras HC Order
The High Court observed that in terms of public servants, the record of individual particulars and identification cannot be construed as a violation of the fundamental rights ensured under the Constitution of India.
Aadhaar Judgment: Inapplicable to public servants
The Court further observed that the judgment of the Constitutional bench from the Aadhaar case as inapplicable in the present case, as the petitioner was a public servant governed by the Tamil Nadu Government Service Rules. “The concept of public employment in the Government is of contractual in nature”, and the employees declare to abide by the Service Rules and other conditions imposed by the Tamil Nadu Government while accepting the offer of appointment. The Government can introduce such rules for the betterment of the Administration. The Court said:
“The Aadhar Enabled Biometric Attendance System is systematically being implemented by the Government of India and by the Hon’ble High Courts and by other public institutions across the country. When the Government thought fit to introduce such an advanced system for the purpose of ensuring the Full proof attendance system in public services, the same cannot be objected by none other than a Teacher working in a School, who is expected to be a Role Model for the young children.”
“Choice” to be a public servant brings with it a requirement for Aadhaar
The Court, while hearing the petition, highlighted that fundamental rights were subject to reasonable restrictions, and that the right to privacy is “subject to the performance of duties and responsibilities towards the public by a public servant”. The Court observed that such a right cannot curtail the implementation of Aadhar-enabled biometric attendance system. The further added:
“Any better system by adopting the best technology, cannot be objected by a person, who is none other than the Teacher working in the School. If at all, the Teacher is not possessing the Aadhaar Number, then it is for her to register her name and get an Aadhaar Number and accordingly, attend the School through Aadhar Enabled Biometric Attendance System. Contrarily, the writ petitioner cannot say that she cannot be compelled to get an Aadhaar Number for the purpose of attending the School. The choice is of the writ petitioner. If the writ petitioner is willing to continue as a public servant, then she is bound to abide by the Service Conditions. If she is not willing to undergo such system, which all are introduced by the Government in the public interest, then the petitioner has to take a decision, whether to continue in service or to leave the service. However, the petitioner cannot object such a system introduced for the improvements of the School Administration.”
The Court has ordered the state authorities to implement the Aadhar-enabled biometric attendance system in state-run schools as per the government policy as expeditiously as possible, so as to ensure proper attendance to teaching and non-teaching staff. It has further asked the petitioner to either enrolled herself to Aadhaar or to leave the service.