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Surveillance, consent, welfare: All you need to know about the Aadhaar case

While the first petition challenging Aadhaar was filed in 2012, the process for this case was kicked off by a October 2015 judgment by the Supreme Court

ALSO READ: Guerrilla killed in Kashmir gunfightALSO READ: BeSam ready to shell out more for airfares as govt mulls security fee hike After going on to become the second-longest hearing in the history of the Supreme Court – spanning 38 working days and nearly five months – a five-judge bench is finally set to deliver its verdict in the Aadhaar case. The ‘Aadhaar case’ is shorthand for a group of petitions that challenge the constitutional validity of the Centre’s flagship Aadhaar programme and the 2016 law that enables the scheme. While the Aadhaar initiative started as a self-contained unique identification programme aimed at curbing leakages in India’s welfare system, it has since then morphed into a sprawling identity ecosystem that looks to integrate itself at every point the state interacts with citizens, or rather residents of India. This unrelenting push – which has in turn set off the ‘Should Aadhaar be voluntary or mandatory debate?’ – started under the UPA-II administration and accelerated under the Modi government. The problems with Aadhaar and the broader Unique Identification Authority of India ecosystem are numerous and range from security and privacy violations to large-scale welfare exclusions. What are the issues at stake? What did the petitioners ask for? The Wire breaks it down. How did the Aadhaar hearings start? While the first petition challenging Aadhaar was filed in 2012, the process for this case was kicked off by a October 2015 judgment by the Supreme Court. This judgment allowed the use of Aadhaar in a number of government schemes, but maintained specifically that the “purely voluntary nature” of Aadhaar would continue till the court decided one way or another on the validity of the system through a constitution bench.

Importantly, in the hearings that led up to the October 2015 judgment, the then attorney-general Mukul Rohatgi denied citizens had a fundamental right to privacy. The government’s contention became a crucial sticking point, because until this question could be decided, the larger constitutional challenge to Aadhaar could not be heard by the Supreme Court. For almost two years thereafter, the matter remained in limbo until Chief Justice Dipak Misra set up a nine-judge bench in July 2017 to decide the ‘right to privacy’ question. A month later, the bench ruled that Indians enjoy a fundamental right to privacy, a right that is protected under Article 21 of the constitution. This paved the way for the final Aadhaar hearings to start. They eventually began in January 2018, the judgment for which will be out on Wednesday (September 26, 2018). What was argued in court? Though a vast range of arguments were made out against Aadhaar in court, broadly speaking, there are four major categories. A few of these, as pointed below, don’t fall into these buckets. Also, it’s important to remember some of the challenges mounted are against the Aadhaar project as a whole and some of them are more legalistic in nature and are against the Aadhaar Act.

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First Published: Wed, September 26 2018. 12:29 IST
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