Supreme Court agrees to examine validity of Aadhaar ordinance

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]HE Supreme Court today issued notice to the Central Government and Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) on a petition filed jointly by retired Indian Army Officers S G Vombatkare and Human Rights activist Bezwada Wilson, challenging the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019 and the Aadhaar (Pricing of Aadhaar Authentication Services) Regulations, 2019.

Senior advocate Shyam Divan appeared for the petitioners before a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Justices S A Bobde and B R Gavai.

In the petition filed through Advocate Vipin Nair and drawn by advocate Prasanna S, the petitioners have submitted that the Aadhaar Ordinance created a backdoor entry to private parties to access the Aadhaar eco-system, thus enabling state and private surveillance of citizens. The regulations also permitted the commercial exploitation of personal and sensitive information, collected and stored for state purposes only, they have claimed.

“The Adhaar Ordinance and Regulations are manifestly unconstitutional as they seek to re-legislate the provisions of the Aadhaar Act, 2016 which enabled commercial exploitation of personal information collected for the purposes of the state (by permitting private parties to access the Aadhaar database), which were specifically declared unconstitutional in Supreme Court’s decision dated September 26, 2018, in Justice Puttaswamy v. Union of India,” the petitioners have said.

They further submitted that through the regulations, the UIDAI expressly sought to commercialize and gain financially through the large-scale collection of citizens’ private data and the use of Aadhaar database by private entities.  People’s data, which was collected for the Aadhaar database, is their private property and permitting this to be commercialized is an impermissible violation of their dignity under Article 19 and 21 of the Constitution, the petitioners have contended.

The Aadhaar Ordinance, according to the petitioners, was promulgated in an improper exercise of the ordinance-making power of the President under Article 123. The President of India Ram Nath Kovind promulgated the Aadhaar Ordinance on March 3, 2019, after the Aadhaar bill lapsed due to the dissolution of 16thLok Sabha.

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