On July 5th, the Supreme Court issued a notice to the Centre and the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) seeking its response on a writ petition challenging the constitutionality of the new Aadhaar (and Other Laws Amendment) Ordinance, 2019 and the Aadhaar (Pricing of Aadhaar Authentication Services) Regulations, 2019.

A division bench headed by Justice S A Bobde issued the notice on the petition filed by activists S.G. Vombatkere and Bezwada Wilson, who alleged that the UIDAI intends to use the ordinance to commercialise and gain financially through the large-scale collection of the personal data of citizens and use of Aadhaar database by private entities, as The Hindu reports.

The Petition

The petition challenges the new Aadhaar Ordinance and Regulations on the grounds that they violate fundamental rights as guaranteed under Article 19 and 21 of Part III of the Constitution of India.

“The impugned ordinance creates a backdoor to permit private parties to access the Aadhaar eco-system, thus enabling State and private surveillance of citizens…”

It is contended by the petitioners that the Ordinance and Regulations seek to effectively re-legislate the part of the Aadhaar Act, 2016 which enables commercial exploitation of Aadhaar by the private sector. The provisions relating to private sector use of Aadhaar were struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court its judgment in the Aadhaar case on 26th September 2018.

Further, the petitioner argues that the Ordinance allows the Aadhaar database to be linked with the existing databases under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and the Indian Telegraph Act which “poses a grave threat to national security by permitting unverified data to creep into these databases.”

“The Aadhaar database is a Trojan Horse which will over time infect, undermine and debase the integrity of these two databases”

Finally, the petition has objected that the Ordinance creates a new system of “offline verification” that will exacerbate the complexities caused by the Aadhaar project, “as such a method creates unprecedented opportunities for unauthorized parties to save and replicate Aadhaar-related personal data, in various offline federated database”.