While hearing a case on alleged manipulation of Aadhaar data by a fair price shop dealer, the Allahabad High Court enquired how a fair price shop dealer could possibly change Aadhaar details in a database which is accessible only to the National Informatics Centre (NIC). Justice Manoj Kumar Gupta, on October 8, directed the UP government’s Principal Secretary, Food & Civil Supply Department, to file a personal affidavit answering the court’s query. LiveLaw first reported this.

The question came up when the court was hearing a petition filed by one Awadhesh Kumar, a fair price shop dealer. Kumar’s fair price shop license was cancelled by the District Magistrate after he was found guilty of manipulating data of PDS beneficiaries in the Aadhaar database. Kumar was accused of interpolating this data through an “unknown technical operator” by “seeding mechanism” and then by using biometrics of people who aren’t actual beneficiaries to give them essential rations.

“Let Principal Secretary, Food & Civil Supply Department, Government of U.P. Lucknow file his personal affidavit in the context of the above submission and explain how it is possible for a fair price shop dealer to change the Adhaar [Aadhaar] number in the data base which is accessible only to NIC.” — from the Allahabad High Court’s order

Lawyers representing Kumar had argued that the actions he is accused of are not technically possible and the allegations are based on pure conjecture. They contended that the seeding of Aadhaar numbers is done by the NIC, and the District Magistrate’s order, cancelling Kumar’s license, does not specify who the “unknown technical operator” is.

Relying on information obtained from a certain RTI document, Kumar’s lawyers argued that the e-POS machine cannot be altered by fair price shop dealers, the password/login ID is generated by the NIC, which fair price shop owners can not change, and these shop owners can not alter the Aadhaar number fed into the e-POS machine through NIC’s central server.

On top of that, the state of Uttar Pradesh, which is among the respondents in this case, is in great haste to appoint a new dealer in place of Kumar, and has already issued an advertisement (tender) for it, Kumar’s lawyers contended. Upon hearing this, the court directed that no new dealer be selected in place of Kumar, while adding that beneficiaries who usually obtained commodities from Kumar’s shop could be assigned to another shop.

The matter will now be heard on October 22.

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