Lok Sabha MP Asaduddin Owaisi has written to the Registrar General of India opposing proposed amendments to the Registration of Births and Deaths Act. Through the amendments, the government wants to use birth and death data to update the National Population Register (NPR), Aadhaar, and other databases.
Wrote to Office of Registrar General of India, Ministry of Home Affairs opposing the proposed amendments to link registration of births & deaths to #NPR, electoral rolls, passports, etc. It is a dangerous & illegal proposal that does not serve ANY public interest pic.twitter.com/YeaAnYgm59
— Asaduddin Owaisi (@asadowaisi) December 3, 2021
In his letter, Owaisi has invoked the principle of purpose limitation (i.e. using data only for the purpose for which it was collected) and the right to privacy. “There is no legitimate public interest that is served by such centralization of databases,” Owaisi argued in the letter.
Registered births and deaths are currently only recorded by state governments. Critics including Owaisi fear that this amendment is a step towards the creation of the highly controversial National Register of Citizens (NRC) and 360-degree profiles of Indian citizens.
Proposed amendments have no benefits, violate citizen rights: Owaisi
In his letter, Owaisi highlighted several concerns with the proposed amendment, broadly alleging that it violates the right to privacy:
- Principle of purpose limitation: “Inter-linking and centralising such diverse databases violates the principle of purpose limitation, which is at the heart of the right to privacy,” Owaisi wrote. The principle states that data collected for one purpose with informed consent should not be used for any other purpose, he explained.
- Protection from excessive collection of data: The amendment violates the principle against excessive collection by “using a database meant for births and deaths for the updation of unrelated and unconnected databases,” Owaisi argued.
- Failing the Puttaswamy test: According to the Puttaswamy test, any state interference with the right to privacy must fulfill three criteria: legality, necessity, and proportionality. Pointing out that the government has provided no reason why such linkage is necessary or proportionate, Owaisi concluded that the proposed amendments don’t meet the three-fold test.
What do the amendments to the birth and death act say?
The proposed amendment to the Registration of Births and Deaths Act 1969 would allow the central government to use birth and death data to update multiple records. These records include:
- Population Register prepared under the Citizenship Act, 1955
- Electoral Registers or Electoral Rolls prepared under Representation of People Act, 1951
- Aadhaar Database prepared under Aadhaar Act, 2016,
- Ration Card database prepared under National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA);
- Passport Database prepared under the Passport Act
- Driving Licence database under Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Act, 2019
- Other databases at the national level
Critics fear that the amendment signals an NRC revival. Security researcher Srinivas Kodali pointed out that the aim of the amendment was to create a ‘360 degree profile databases’, comparing it to recent measures by the Hyderabad Police:
MHA extends deadline for consultation of amendments to Registration of Births and Deaths Act to December 2nd. The proposed amendments include linking Aadhaar, Motor Vehicles,Birth, Death, Voter data registries. It aims to build 360 degree profile databases like Hyderabad Police. pic.twitter.com/4vMQVnassz
— Srinivas Kodali (@digitaldutta) November 17, 2021
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