Republic based on illegal UID/NPR database will be totalitarian
Apprehensions of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance Proven Right
Merger of electoral database with UID/NPR database, an invitation to despotism
have joined the civil liberties groups and the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance that rejected the National Identification Authority of India
(NIDAI) Bill, 2010 for giving post dated legal mandate to Unique Identification Authority of India
(UIDAI) to oppose Unique Identification (UID)/Aadhaar Number based on illegal and illegitimate collection of biometric data.
The opposition of Trade Unions against the retirement fund body Employees’ Provident Fund Organization (EPFO
)’s autocratic decision to make submission of UID/Aadhaar mandatory for its over 50 million existing subscribers and new members has robust legal, legislative and citizens support. EPFO has issued an order to its field staff to mandatorily ask for UID/Aadhaar numbers from new members joining the scheme from March 1, 2013 and existing members by June 30, 2013.
EPFO trustees Bhartiya Majdoor Sangh General Secretary Baij Nath Rai and All India Trade Union Congress Secretary D L Sachdev have expressed their opposed it questioning EPFO’s use of UID/Aadhaar number as unique account number of its members. Hind Mazdoor Sabha Secretary A D Nagpal has also expressed his reservations.
Initiatives based on UID/Aadhaar number and the UID/Aadhaar number has been rejected by the multi-party Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on Finance comprising of Yashwant Sinha, Shivkumar Udasi Chanabasappa, Jayant Chaudhary, Harishchandra Deoram Chavan, Bhakta Charan Das, Gurudas Dasgupta, Nishikant Dubey, Chandrakant Khaire, Bhartruhari Mahtab, Anjan Kumar Yadav M, Prem Das Rai
, Dr. Kavuru Sambasiva Rao, Rayapati S. Rao, Magunta Sreenivasulu Reddy, Sarvey Sathyanarayana, G.M. Siddeswara, N. Dharam Singh, Yashvir Singh, Manicka Tagore, R. Thamaraiselvan
, Dr. M. Thambidurai, S.S. Ahluwalia 24. Vijay Jawaharlal Darda, Piyush Goyal, Raashid Alvi, Moinul Hassan, Satish Chandra Misra
, Mahendra Mohan, Dr. Mahendra Prasad, Dr. K.V.P. Ramachandra Rao and Yogendra P. Trivedi.
In its report the PSC said, “The Committee have carefully examined the written information furnished to them and heard the views for and against the National Identification Authority of India (NIDAI) Bill from various quarters such as the Ministry of Planning, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and experts. The clearance of the Ministry of Law & Justice for issuing aadhaar numbers, pending passing the Bill by Parliament, on the ground that powers of the Executive are co-extensive with the legislative power of the Government and that the Government is not debarred from exercising its Executive power in the areas which are not regulated by the legislation does not satisfy the Committee. The Committee are constrained to point out that in the instant case, since the law making is underway with the bill being pending, any executive action is as unethical and violative of Parliament‟s prerogatives as promulgation of an ordinance while one of the Houses of Parliament being in session.”
It observed in its recommendations, “The Committee observe that prima facie the issue of unique identification number, which has been referred to as “aadhaar number” to individuals residing in India and other classes of individuals under the Unique Identification (UID) Scheme is riddled with serious lacunae and concern areas which have been identified as follows:-
a) The UID scheme has been conceptualized with no clarity of purpose and leaving many things to be sorted out during the course of its implementation; and is being implemented in a directionless way with a lot of confusion. The scheme which was initially meant for BPL families has been extended for all residents in India and to certain other persons. The Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM), constituted for the purpose of collating the two schemes namely, the UID and National Population Register (NPR), and to look into the methodology and specifying target for effective completion of the UID scheme, failed to take concrete decision on important issues such as (a) identifying the focused purpose of the resident identity database; (b) methodology of collection of data; (c) removing the overlapping between the UID scheme and NPR; (d) conferring of statutory authority to the UIDAI since its inception; (e) structure and functioning of the UIDAI; (f) entrusting the collection of data and issue of unique identification number and national identification number to a single authority instead of the present UIDAI and its reconciliation with National Registration Authority;
b) The need for conferring of statutory authority to the UIDAI felt by the Government way back in November, 2008, but was deferred for more than two years for no reason. In this regard, the Ministry of Planning have informed the Committee that till the time Parliament passes the NIDAI Bill, crucial matters impinging on security and confidentiality of information will be covered by the relevant laws. The Committee are at a loss to understand as to how the UIDAI, without statutory power, could address key
issues concerning their basic functioning and initiate proceedings against the defaulters and penalize them;
c) The collection of biometric information and its linkage with personal information of individuals without amendment to the Citizenship Act, 1955
as well as the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of National Identity Cards
) Rules, 2003, appears to be beyond the scope of subordinate legislation, which needs to be examined in detail by Parliament;
d) Continuance of various existing forms of identity and the requirement of furnishing „other documents‟ for proof of address, even after issue of aadhaar number, would render the claim made by the Ministry that aadhaar number is to be used as a general proof of identity and proof of address meaningless;
e) In addition to aadhaar numbers being issued by the UIDAI, the issuance of smart cards containing information of the individuals by the registrars is not only a duplication but also leads to ID fraud as prevalent in some countries; and
f) The full or near full coverage of marginalized sections for issuing aadhaar numbers could not be achieved mainly owing to two reasons viz. (i) the UIDAI doesn‟t have the statistical data relating to them; and (ii) estimated failure of biometrics is expected to be as high as 15% due to a large chunk of population being dependent on manual labour.
The PSC report observed, “The Committee are also unhappy to observe that the UID scheme lacks clarity on many issues such as even the basic purpose of issuing “aadhaar” number. Although the scheme claims that obtaining aadhaar number is voluntary, an apprehension is found to have developed in the minds of people that in future, services / benefits including food entitlements would be denied in case they do not have aadhaar number. It is also not clear as to whether possession of aadhaar number would be made mandatory in future for availing of benefits and services. Even if the aadhaar number links entitlements to targeted beneficiaries, it may not ensure that beneficiaries have been correctly identified. Thus, the present problem of proper identification would persist.”
It also observed, “Though there are significant differences between the identity system of other countries and the UID scheme, yet there are lessons from the global experience to be learnt before proceeding with the implementation of the UID scheme, which the Ministry of Planning have ignored completely. For instance, the United Kingdom shelved its Identity Cards Project for a number of reasons, which included:- (a) huge cost involved and possible cost overruns; (b) too complex; (c) untested, unreliable and unsafe technology; (d) possibility of risk to the safety and security of citizens; and (e) requirement of high standard security measures, which would result in escalating the estimated operational costs. In this context, the Report of the London School of Economics‟ Report on UK‟s Identity Project inter-alia states that “…..identity systems may create a range of new and unforeseen problems……the risk of failure in the current proposals is therefore magnified to the point where the scheme should be regarded as a potential danger to the public interest and to the legal rights of individuals”. As these findings are very much relevant and applicable to the UID scheme, they should have been seriously considered.”
“The Committee note that the Ministry of Planning have admitted that (a) no committee has been constituted to study the financial implications of the UID scheme; and (b) comparative costs of the aadhaar number and various existing ID documents are also not available. The Committee also note that Detailed Project Report (DPR) of the UID Scheme has been done much later in April, 2011. The Committee thus strongly disapprove of the hasty manner in which the UID scheme has been approved. Unlike many other schemes / projects, no comprehensive feasibility study, which ought to have been done before approving such an expensive scheme, has been done involving all aspects of the UID scheme including cost-benefit analysis, comparative costs of aadhaar number and various forms of existing identity, financial implications and prevention of identity theft, for example, using hologram enabled ration card to eliminate fake and duplicate beneficiaries.
“The Committee are afraid that the scheme may end up being dependent on private agencies, despite contractual agreement made by the UIDAI with several private vendors. As a result, the beneficiaries may be forced to pay over and above the charges to be prescribed by the UIDAI for availing of benefits and services, which are now available free of cost.”
“The Committee find that the scheme is full of uncertainty in technology as the complex scheme is built up on untested, unreliable technology and several assumptions. Further, despite adverse observations by the UIDAI‟s Biometrics Standards Committee on error rates of biometrics, the UIDAI is collecting the biometric information. It is also not known as to whether the proof of concept studies and assessment studies undertaken by the UIDAI have explored the possibilities of maintaining accuracy to a large level of enrolment of 1.2 billion people. Therefore, considering the possible limitations in applications of technology available now or in the near future, the Committee would believe that it is unlikely that the proposed objectives of the UID scheme could be achieved.”
“The Committee feel that entrusting the responsibility of verification of information of individuals to the registrars to ensure that only genuine residents get enrolled into the system may have far reaching consequences for national security. Given the limitation of any mechanism such as a security audit by an appropriate agency that would be setup for verifying the information etc., it is not sure as to whether complete verification of information of all aadhaar number holders is practically feasible; and whether it would deliver the intended results without compromising national security.”
The PSC report which has been submitted to the Parliament is available at
In a related development it was reported
on October 6, 2011 that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi wrote to the Prime Minister questioning the need for National Population Register (NPR) by Registrar General of India & Census Commissioner, Union Ministry of Home Affairs. Gujarat stopped collection of biometric data for creation of the NPR.
In his letter to the Prime Minister, Modi raised objections over both the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which is creating Unique Identification (UID)/Aadhaar Number and Registrar General of India, which is creating the NPR, collecting biometric data.
In his letter to Manmohan Singh, Modi wrote, “there is no mention of capturing biometrics in the Citizenship Act or Citizenship Rules 2009”. He added, “In the absence of any provision in the Citizenship Act, 1955, or rules for capturing biometrics, it is difficult to appreciate how the capture of biometrics is a statutory requirement. Photography and biometrics is only mentioned in the Manual of Instructions for filling up the NPR household schedule and even in that there is no mention of capturing the Iris”.
After Gujarat stopped collection of biometric data, the then Union Minister of Home Affairs, P Chidambaram sent a letter to Modi in August 2011 pointing out that creation of the NPR was a “statutory requirement” under the Citizenship Act, 1955, and “once initialized, has to be necessarily completed”. The Union Minister of Home Affairs had also requested the CM to instruct state government officers to cooperate in creation of the NPR.
This was when the entire media, the citizens and the political class was hoodwinked into believing that there was a rift between Nandan Manohar Nilekani’s UIDAI under Planning Commission and Dr C Chandramouli’s NPR under Union Minsitry of Home Affairs.
It appears that in order to reveal Modi chose to side with UIDAI in an apparent rebuff to Chidambaram. Modi kicked off UID/Adhaar project in Gujarat
on May 1, 2012 by giving his biometric information for his UID number and enrolled under the UIDAI project. Strangely, Modi did not object to his biometric identification under UID as he did with regard to NPR. Modi did so despite the fact that Yashwant Sinha headed Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance has rejected the UID project and the UID Bill in its report to the Parliament on December 13, 2012. However, it may be noted that one sentence of its report appears to endorse biometric NPR. Is it a case of Sinha trying to side with Chidambaram? It appears that Modi has been taken for ride with regard to the UID/Aadhaar and Sinha with regard to NPR as they failed to see through the strategy.
Now it is clear that the staged rift that was created between Home Ministry and Planning Commission’ UIDAI on UID and NPR was motivated and was meant to take legislatures, citizens, States and media for a ride.
The Terms of Reference No. 8 of Planning Commission’s notification dated January 28, 2009 that created Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) in pursuance of the 4th meeting of the Empowered Group of Ministers, states, “Take necessary steps to ensure collation of NPR and UID (as per approved strategy)”.
The rift that led to division of work between UIDAI and Home Ministry’s Registrar General of India & Census Commissioner and the movement of P Chidambaram from Home Ministry to Finance Ministry appears to be as per the approved strategy. The strategy document prepared by WIPRO Ltd is missing.
As per the communication from UIDAI dated July 2, 2010 which states that “The decision for appointment of Chairman was conveyed by the Cabinet Secretariat” The Planning Commission’s notification (which was to be published in the Gazette of India) dated July 2, 2009 reveals that “the competent authority has approved the appointment of Nandan Nilekani, Co-Chairman, INFOSYS as Chairperson, Unique Identification Authority of India, in the rank and status of a Cabinet Minister. Nilekani will hold appointment for an initial tenure of five years”. The notification shows that a copy was marked to Nilekani, CEO, President & MD, Infosys Technologies Ltd., Corporate Headquarters besides the Secretary Generals of Secretariats of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. This was before the UID Bill (The National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010) was introduced in the Parliament and rejected by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance in its report to the Parliament in December 13, 2011.
It is noteworthy that National Population Register (NPR) for Multi-purpose Identity Card (MNIC), Unique Identification /Aadhaar Number, UID/Aadhaar-Enabled E-payment system, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), DNA Profiling, National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID), National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), National Information Utility, Public Information Infrastructure and Innovations, Electronic Services Delivery Law, amendments in Information Technology Act, Land Titling Bill, unified E payment infrastructure etc are related and are in line with the policy of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and World Bank’s eTransform Initiative. None of the above programmes and subordinate legislations have legislative mandate.
Given a choice between leakage or theft of citizens database of sensitive personal information and leakage of public distribution system and delivery social welfare services what would be be chosen and which can be plugged more easily. Recently, database of Greece has been stolen as per Reuters and the database of Pakistan and Egypt has been handed over to US as per the diplomatic cables leaked by Wikileaks.
In UID/Aadhaar Enrolment Form, Column 9 reads: “I have no objection to the UIDAI sharing information provided by me to the UIDAI with agencies engaged in delivery of welfare services”. In front of this column, there is a “Yes” and “No” option. Irrespective of what option residents of India exercise (which is being ticked automatically by the enroler in any case as of now), the fact is this information being collected for creating Centralized Identity Data Register (CIDR) and NPR (column 7) will be handed over to biometric technology companies like Satyam Computer Services/Sagem Morpho, L1 Identities Solutions and Accenture Services of all shades who have already been awarded contracts.
A letter written to Election Commission of India and Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on Finance that has rejected the UID Bill underlined the ILLEGALITY OF MERGER OF UID-AADHAAR-NPR LINKED CONTRACTS, VOTER ID, EVM, CASH TRANSFER ETC was shared with the media persons. But the way BJP has reacted to UID based cash transfer in a very procedural manner instead of engage with it in a substantive way appears to signal witting or unwitting collusion between both BJP and Congress with regard to UID and NPR otherwise how is it that all the NDA and UPA ruled States are implementing UID and NPR quite obediently. The non-NDA and non-UPA parties have failed to apply their legal minds to it the way they did in the case of National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC). So far they have failed to appreciate that UID, NPR, NCTC and National Intelligence Grid is linked and is being linked with Census and Voters’ database.
Unmindful of threat to federalism most States including Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha, Tripura, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal have signed a MoU with UIDAI. Surprisingly, the States which were quite vocal about threats to federal structure from Union Home Ministry‘s National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) and National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) that integrates 21 sets of databases have been caught unawares by the creation of UID’s Centralized Identities Data Register (CIDR) disregarding the fact that Planning Commission’s CIDR and Home Ministry’s National Population Register (NPR) is going to be converged.
It is indeed unfortunate that the State Governments and Central Government has chosen to listen to consultants who are more interested in making a quick sale of their biometric, identification and surveillance technology products. The ways in which compromised biometrics can be of inordinate danger to the person whose biometrics have been stolen due to mishandling or improper understanding of the ways in which digital systems can be misused and abused has been visualized in an article authored by a pioneer in biometric identity systems merits attention. The same has been published in The New York Times on November 10, 2012.
UID- Aadhaar based cash transfer scheme anti poor. The claim that Central Government’s UID -Aadhaar will result in the savings is suspect unless Prime Minister’s Office and Planning Commission study revealed the total budget UID-Aadhaar project. The Prime Minister’s Office must declare its total budget Aadhaar project before disbursing cash transfer through UIDAI platform for all major government schemes.
UID-Aadhaar based cash transfer is being started off when bank accounts still don’t exist for everyone, especially those who the government claims to want to target; when the institution of banking correspondents has been tried and has admittedly failed; when the proof of concepts on biometrics has demonstrated that it is still an under-tested technology; when even the projected coverage of the aadhaar is half the population (600 million) by 2014. The government is impatient to shift to cash transfer as is being recommended by intergovernmental banking agencies such as the World Bank; and the evidence of probable failure is not to be heeded in this haste. The Bank’s paper dated October 2012 reveals that cash transfer and vote purchase is linked.
A “Strategic Vision on the UIDAI Project” was prepared and submitted to this Committee by M/S Wipro Ltd (Consultant for the design phase and program management phase of the Pilot UIDAI project). It envisaged the close linkage that the UIDAI would have to the electoral database. The Committee also appreciated the need of a UIDAI Authority to be created by an executive order under the aegis of the Planning Commission to ensure a pan-departmental and neutral identity for the authority and at the same time enable a focused approach to attaining the goals set for the XI Plan. The Seventh Meeting of the Process Committee on 30 August 2007 decided to furnish to the Planning commission a detailed proposal based on the resource model for seeking its “in principle” approval. At the same time, the Registrar General of India was engaged in the creation of the National Population Register and issuance of Multi-purpose National Identity Cards to citizens of India. Reference: http://uidai.gov.in/about-uidai.html
It is noteworthy that Election Commission’s website carries a power point presentation that concludes by stating ‘Makes us UID ready’. It has come to light that Union Home Ministry has sought a proposal from the Election Commission of India and the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), will ensure that UID-Aadhaar does not duplicate the data that is collected and used by the Election Commission. Dr S Y Quraishi as Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) revealed to a newspaper that, “With the UID project already completing the biometric process under its umbrella, by scanning fingerprints and retina scan, we have approached the Centre to merge the Election ID cards with UID.” He added, “We will have the unique identification numbers provided by the UID printed on the election IDs…With over 750 million people registered with the EC, we have the largest data base to help the UID project.” It may be noted that the Nilekani had approached the Election Commission for accessing their data base and voters list for preparing the UID database.
It is quite disturbing that the Parliament has not been informed so far about the ongoing merger of UID, NPR and electoral database when it examined the UID Bill. This constitutes commission of a series of illegalities and acts of unwarranted subordinate legislation.
It has come to light that head of UIDAI was given ID Limelight Award at the ID WORLD International Congress in Italy. This year the 10th edition of the ID WORLD International Congress is planned in Milan, Italy during November 2-4. The key sponsors of Congress include Morpho (Safran group), a French multinational corporation specializing in ID credentials solutions incorporating biometrics application in passports, visas, ID documents, health and social benefits, elections, etc. Its subsidiary, Sagem Morpho Security Pvt. Ltd has been awarded contract for the purchase of Biometric Authentication Devices on February 2, 2011 by the UIDAI.
Earlier, on July 30, 2010, in a joint press release, it was announced that “the Mahindra Satyam and Morpho led consortium has been selected as one of the key partners to implement and deliver the Aadhaar program by UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India).” This means that at least two contracts have been awarded to the French conglomerate led consortium. Is it a coincidence that Morpho (Safran group) sponsored the award to Chairman, UIDAI and the former got a contract from the latter?
Incidentally, Nilekani was given the award at the ID WORLD International Congress in 2010 held in Milan from November 16 to 18, 2010. One of the two Platinum Sponsors was Morpho (Safran group), a French high-technology company with three core businesses: Aerospace, Defense and Security. Coincidentally, this Global Summit on Automatic Identification in 2009 had awarded Tariq Malik, Deputy Chairman of Islamabad based National Database & Registration Authority (NADRA) too for implementing UID project in Pakistan.
Nilekani was given the award “For being the force behind a transformational project ID project in India…and “to provide identification cards for each resident across the country and would be used primarily as the basis for efficient delivery of welfare services. It would also act as a tool for effective monitoring of various programs and schemes of the Government.” Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL) contends that there is a conflict of interest and it appears to be an act done in lieu of the contract.
It may been noted that UIDAI awarded contracts to three companies namely, Satyam Computer Services Ltd. (Mahindra Satyam), as part of a “Morpho led consortium”, L1 Identity Solutions Operating Company and Accenture Services Pvt. Ltd of USA for the “Implementation of Biometric Solution for UIDAI” on July 30, 2010.
It is alarming to note that Davinder Kumar, Deputy Director General, UIDAI will have residents/ citizens of India believe that the three transnational biometric technology companies working with foreign intelligence agencies namely:1) Mahindra Satyam Computer Services/Sagem Morpho, 2) L1 Identities Solutions and 3) Accenture Services who have been awarded contracts by UIDAI that “There are no means to verify whether the said companies are of US origin or not” in a reply to Right to Information (RTI) application dated 21st July, 2011. This is quite a stark act of omission and commission that is likely to put residents of India under surveillance using delivery of public services as fish bait forever. The RTI reply is attached. Didn’t Nilekani know the country of origin of the award and their sponsors who were awarded contract by UIDAI prior to taking the award?
UIDAI officials like Nilekani and Davinder Kumar the “means to verify” the country of the origin of three companies in questions. The first company Morpho’s website is
On July 19, 2011, L-1 Identity Solutions and Safran, Paris announced that in connection with the pending acquisition of L-1 by Safran, the parties have reached a final agreement on the terms of a definitive mitigation agreement with the United States government. L-1 and Safran were notified by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) on July 19, 2011 that the investigation of the merger transaction is complete and that there are no unresolved national security concerns with respect to the transaction. With CFIUS approval for the merger, and having satisfied all other conditions required prior to closing, the parties intend to complete the merger transaction within the next five business days. Robert V. LaPenta, Chairman, President and CEO of L-1 Identity Solutions said, “The combination of L-1 and Safran Morpho with our complementary technologies, markets and promising synergies will result in the leading worldwide-wide provider of identity solutions today and into the future.”
As a consequence of Safran’s purchase of L-1 Identity Solutions, the de-duplication contracts of UIDAI’s CIDR and Home Ministry’s NPR which was given to two companies on July 30, 2010, both contracts are with one company now.
It seems to be a surveillance movement based on global ID card. Commenting on the merger of the two biometric technology companies, Mark Lerner, the author of the book “Your Body is Your ID” says, “Safran is a French company, 30% owned by the French government”. Safran has a 40 year partnership with China in the aerospace and the security sectors too.
The third company, Accenture, a US company headquartered in Dublin, Republic of Ireland. It won US Department of Homeland Security’s contract for five years to design and implement the United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (US-VISIT) program based on biometric technology for checking identities of foreigners visiting USA. The contract includes five base years plus five option years mandated by U.S. Congress for Smart Border Alliance project. It is one of the main privatized gatekeepers of US borders.
Now will UIDAI and Home Ministry explain whether or not they blundered in giving contracts to these above mentioned companies? Feigning ignorance about their country of origin is not a pardonable act for sure.
At a lecture on November 23, 2012 UIDAI Chairperson talked about a gigantic naming ceremony underway-mankind’s biggest biometric database ever and ominously stated that if you do not have the Aadhaar card you will not get the right to rights. UID is like a financial address for the people. The question is if Aadhaar card is only an identifier of residents of India how does it accord to itself an inherent right to approve or disapprove rights of citizens to have rights? He mentioned the October 2012 report of the Report of the Justice A P Shah headed Group of Experts on Privacy but ignored the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee and Statement of Concern on UID that Justice Shah had co-signed. When UIDAI Chairperson acknowledged that privacy is larger than Aadhaar and says that legal framework will even out the design risks, he took the audience for ride because while the legal framework for both the UID and Privacy is absent the implementation of UID and NPR is unfolding illegally and illegitimately.
It has been noted that the name Aadhaar is linked to the NGO of Nilekani that worked in the matter of Bangalore Agenda Task Force from 1999 to 2004.
It is clear that the Prime Minister is putting the cart before the horse, how does Privacy Bill make sense when privacy of citizens is already violated through UID related tracking and profiling system being implemented.
Parliament and citizens have not been informed so far about the ongoing merger of UID, NPR and electoral database when it examined the UID Bill. This constitutes commission of a series of illegalities and acts of unwarranted subordinate legislation.
Planning Commission’s claim of Rs 1, 10, 000 crore of savings from unique identification (UID)-Aadhaar and the Parliamentary Committee’s Report on UID/Aadhaar Bill submitted to the Parliament which found the UID-Aadhaar scheme questionable on several counts including the fact that it is irrational to claim savings without disclosing the total budget of the UID and UID related projects. The budgetary allocation for UIDAI is acting like a sink for public money. All claims of benefits are suspect as long as total cost is presented to the Parliament and citizens.
In the face of such assault on Parliament’s prerogative, State’s autonomy, citizens’ rights and the emergence of a regime that is making legislatures subservient to database and data mining companies, the urgent intervention of the PSC, Parliament, States, political parties and citizens cannot be postponed anymore.
In a significant development, the Writ Petition (Civil) of Justice K S Puttaswamy, former judge of the Karnataka High Court was heard on November 30, 2012 before Hon’ble Supreme Court’s bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice J. Chelameswar echoing some of the concerns raised by seventeen eminent citizens like Justice V R Krishna, Justice A P Shah, Prof. Upendra Baxi and the findings of the Parliamentary Standing on Finance in the matter of the implementation of world biggest ever biometric data based identification exercise. The bench issued an order in the case of Justice Puttaswamy (retd) VERSUS Union of India saying, “Issue notice on the writ petition as also on the prayer for interim relief. Leave is given to the petitioners to add additional grounds.”
The petition refers to a letter of a member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha, Justice M. Rama Jois, addressed a letter to the Prime Minister in this regard on 19.01.2011 pointing out to the constitutional impropriety of issuing Aadhar Numbers even when the Bill aforesaid was pending before the parliament. But surprisingly, to the said letter, he received a reply dated January 29, 2011 simply stating that the Prime Minister has received his letter without replying to the points raised in his letter.
Justice Puttaswamy is a former Judge of the Karnataka High Court since 1977 and after retirement he was Vice Chairman of Central Administrative Tribunal, Bangalore Bench, Bangalore. He was Chairman of Andhra Pradesh Administrative Tribunal, Hyderabad and also Chairman, Andhra Pradesh Backward Class Commission. The petitioner wants that the executive and legislature must function within the frame work of the Constitutional provisions so that Government “does not circumvent the legislature to avoid discussion, debate and voting in the Parliament and thereby render the legislature redundant or purposeless.”
The writ petition submitted, “the petitioner states that collecting Biometric information as a condition precedent for the issue of Aadhar number is an invasion of the right to privacy of citizens and therefore this can be done only by the law enacted by the Parliament and beyond the executive power.”
Taking note of the fact that “Aadhar number is issued under Section 3 of the (UID) Bill to a non citizen on the ground that he is residing in this Country, he becomes entitled to the fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 14 and 21 of the Constitution as fundamental rights under Article 14 and 21 are available to all persons in India and consequently also right to a remedy under Article 32 of the constitution of India”, the petition submits, “it is a matter of great security concern for the nation also. When such is the magnitude of the provisions of the Bill, still it is sought to be implemented by the exercise of executive power without any discussion, debate and the approval by both the Houses of the Parliament.”
The petition asks the Supreme Court, “what is the contours of the executive powers of the Central Government under Article 73 and whether the executive power vested in the Union can be exercised so as to adversely affect the fundamental right to privacy and in a manner so as to bye-pass the legislative power of the Parliament? And render the Bill Purposeless. “The petitioners are constrained to state that the subject matter involved in the Bill is of serious consequences to the right to privacy of the citizens of the Country and also right to secrecy of their personal matter and involves colossal expenditure to the Union.”
It asks “whether the executive power could be used in a manner so as to make the legislative power redundant or in other words, whether by the exercise of executive power, the executive can circumvent the Parliament? However, having regard to the far reaching importance of the matter which is highly controversial and involves colossal expenditure, which is sure to become a waste if and when the Parliament rejects the Bill, or for any reason the scheme becomes impracticable rendering the enormous money spent till then a National Waste.”
The petition prays Hon’ble Supreme Court for issuance of “a writ in the nature of mandamus restraining the respondents from issuing Aadhaar Numbers by way of implementing its executive order dated 28.01.2009 which tantamount to implementing the provisions of the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010 pending before the Parliament until and unless the said Bill is considered and passed by the parliament and becomes an Act of parliament.” On the grounds that “The scheme formulated by the Central Government in its notification dated 28.01.2009 constituting Unique Identification Authority of India [UIDAI] and authorizing it to issue aadhaar numbers which adversely affect the fundamental right to privacy flowing from Article 21 of the constitution, cannot be implemented unless it becomes a law enacted by the Parliament.”
On the ground that “When the Government has introduced the National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010 in the Rajya Sabha for the same purpose for which the executive order dated 28.01.2009 was issued, and the same has been rejected by the Standing Committee, Finance, to which it was referred, can still implement its executive order without bringing the Bill for consideration before the Parliament for purpose of discussion, debate and passing by it and before it became an Act of parliament.”
It may be noted that three UID related petitions are pending in the High Courts in Chandigarh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra as well.
Given the fact that convergence of citizens’ personal sensitive information is being converged and is making right to have citizens’ rights dependent on State’s whims and fancies at the behest of ungovernable technology companies, States must un-sign the MoUs they have signed with the UIDAI whose legality is questionable to protect the rights of the citizens of their respective States. Although belated legislative assemblies, councils, panchayati raj institutions, Gram Sabhas, universities etc must examine the illegality and illegitimacy of biometric data based identifications of citizens and put a stay on the implementation of UID and NPR related projects.
Political parties, citizens groups and media houses concerned about public interest ought to consider deploying legal minds to examine the questionable nature of world’s biggest biometric database (UID-NPR initiatives) to protect the democratic rights of the present and future generations.
: Gopal Krishna, Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), New Delhi, Mb: 9818089660, E-mail: email@example.com
Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL) has been campaigning against unregulated biometric, surveillance and identification technology companies since 2010 and had appeared before the Parliamentary Standing Committee, Finance in this regard. CFCL has consistently underlined that the silence of the States which are quite vocal about threats to federal structure from Union Home Ministry‘s National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) and National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) that integrates 21 sets of databases in the matter of the creation of UID’s Centralized Identities Data Register (CIDR) disregarding the fact that Planning Commission’s CIDR and Home Ministry’s National Population Register (NPR) is inexplicable.