In a U-turn, the Rajasthan government clarified on Monday that Aadhaar details are not mandatory for COVID-19 testing in the state, after initially making it mandatory in an earlier guideline. On July 25, the state’s administration had made it mandatory to add a person’s Aadhaar details in a mobile app, while their sample was being collected. The government’s clarification came in response to a letter sent to it by Delhi-based rights group, which had demanded that Aadhaar not be made mandatory for COVID-19 testing in the state.

“A lab technician, while collecting a person’s sample should mandatorily add desired details into the RT-PCR [real-time polymerase chain reaction] app. All lab technicians are hereby directed that Aadhaar card details of people whose sample is being collected is also to be mandatorily added to the RT-PCR app,” the July 25 guideline had said. It is not clear whether the state will release fresh guidelines as per its clarification.

While the government at the time had acknowledged that some people — “like small children” — might not have an Aadhaar, we had pointed out that it wasn’t clear what would happen if no one in a family had an Aadhaar card. “If the person undergoing testing does not have an Aadhaar card (like small children), then one has to submit the Aadhaar Card number of older family members,” said the guidelines.

In its letter to the Rajasthan administration, dated July 30, had said that mandating Aadhaar for COVID-testing goes against the Aadhaar judgement. “We write this to inform you that this step by the Rajasthan Government is in violation of the judgment of the Supreme Court in Justice Puttaswamy v. Union of India (2019 (1) SCC 1) wherein it was held that Aadhaar is mandatory only for filing IT returns and for availing government subsidies from the Consolidated Fund of India,” it said in the letter.

It also said that mandating Aadhaar for getting tested could potentially lead to exclusion of people. “This step will also lead to exclusion of large number of persons without an Aadhaar card, and is thus, exclusionary in nature. Any steps taken by the Government must be constitutionally tenable and in consonance with the law laid down in the Puttaswamy (2019) case,” it said.

Meanwhile, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, earlier this month, had made it mandatory for people to submit their Aadhaar details along with an OTP sent to their phone, before they can get walk-in COVID-19 tests at the city’s urban health centres. The city’s municipal corporation claimed that this was being done to get correct addresses and phone numbers of people who were being tested, as 10% to 15% of such persons were found to be providing false information.