Earlier this week, the Kerala High Court issued notice in a petition challenging the Indian government’s need for ‘mandatory’ collection of Aadhaar data under its education data system UDISE+, Bar and Bench reported. Justice V.G. Arun directed the Indian government, the Indian IT Ministry, and the Kerala government to respond on the matter. The case will be next heard on November 23rd.
Stay tuned for MediaNama’s detailed summary of the petition.
What are the concerns with the UDISE+ data mandate? The Ministry of Education’s Unified District Information System for Education Plus (UDISE+) program organises and classifies school data from across the country. Mandatory Aadhaar data collection for UDISE+ by state governments was first raised by the Central Department of School Education and Literacy in a letter from earlier this year.
Brought by the Democratic Alliance for Knowledge Freedom Society, the petition argued that the letters directing mandatory Aadhaar data collection lacked clear objectives and that the process lacked “specific purpose”. For example, they argued that it is unnecessary to disburse funds for Central education schemes, promote good governance, or achieve full enrollment of students.
The petitioners also raised the flag of students being compelled into sharing their personal information—for example, Aadhaar numbers were being collected without a “consent mechanism” and without transparency over how the data would be used. These actions are “arbitrary and illegal”, they added.
The petitioners recalled that the Indian government was bound to follow the provisions of India’s newly passed data protection law, which originates from the Supreme Court’s 2017 Puttaswamy judgment affirming the right to privacy. They requested the Court to direct the Indian government to either delete the collected data or refrain from transferring it to UDISE+.
How do data mandates like this impact a child’s right to education? The Democratic Alliance for Knowledge Freedom Society added that data mandates like these violate a circular issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India, the apex authority handling Aadhaar. The circular clarified that the lack of Aadhaar should not be a ground to deny children their rights and benefits. Furthermore, the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE Act) provides that children between 6 to 14 years of age have a fundamental right to free education.
The petitioners added that Aadhaar need not be collected to enrol students in schools, and that birth certificates could be used to verify age during admission, as per Section 14 of the Act. The petitioners argued that the Indian government has made no rule that mandates providing Aadhaar after admission to maintain enrollment data or a student registry. The government has the power to do so under Section 38 of the Act.
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