The Supreme Court on Tuesday expressed serious concern that the Aadhaar data information available outside the world can even influence the outcome of elections.
Justice DY Chandrachud sitting along with the Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AK Sikri, AM Kanwilkar and Ashok Bhushan told senior counsel Rakesh Diwedi, appearing for Unique Identity Authority of India and Gujarat government “the real apprehension is the data available can influence the electoral outcome of a country.”
He told the counsel “Whether democracy can survive where Aadhaar data is used to influence the electoral outcome. We have seen this happening. What is the nature of safe guards available in the absence of data protection law? You must understand that the problems are not symptomatic but real.”
Diwedi submitted that technology is advancing and we have limitations of understanding the technological developments.
Justice Chandrachud told the counsel “merely because of limitations of knowledge we can’t have a blinkered view of reality; because we are going to lay down a law which will affect the future generation.”
Diwedi submitted “Please remove the fear and phobia created by petitioners of sharing of data once the requesting entity seeks authentication. Collection of data under Aadhaar is not an atomic bomb. Authentication is an algorithm which is one to one and there is no question of sharing of information with anyone.”
He said the moment the data collected by requesting entities for authentication is submitted, it is encrypted and there is no possibility of leakage.
He also pointed out that not a single person had come to the court complaining that benefit is denied for authentication failure.
Justice Chandrachud countered and said, “don’t be so philosophical about it. It is not that every person should come to court. You must have an administrative mechanism by which benefit is not denied to anyone for authentication failure.”
Petitioners had argued that smart card is better than Aadhaar as it is less intrusive. Refuting this argument, Diwedi said, “they want smart card because institutions like Google doesn’t want Aadhaar to succeed. I (UIDAI) want people of this country to trust me. We don’t want scare mongering to succeed. I have to ensure that the data is not shared and their information is secure.”
Justice Chandrachud told the counsel “one area of concern is the potential interface of the data which is available outside the world. There is a big entity which is controlling the data now.”
However, Diwedi assured the court that the data is protected and safe from leakage.
The petitioners contended that individual human beings are numbered with the use of Aadhaar as Hitler did and he had to face the consequences. Diwedi said it is not that human beings are numbered but every individual is identified by means of a number.
Justice Chandrachud pointed out that the petitioners’ contention is when Constitution recognises an umbrella of multiple identities why should Aadhaar be made compulsory for availing the benefit.
He said whether it is a private insurance company or a mutual fund, Aadhaar data has to be provided and everyone signs a contract accepting sharing of information. “What all we want to know is what are the guidelines for authentication”, the Judge asked.
Diwedi said the necessity of bringing Aadhaar as an identity was to ensure that frauds, which were taking place in the public distribution system, grant of pattas to villagers and grant to benefits to workers were plugged and the real beneficiaries get the benefit.
Aadhaar is a revolutionary concept where people come face to face with the service provider and the whole democratic spirit of their development is taking place. Counsel said “Aadhaar is not a panacea for all ills. But this document is the starting point and not the end point.”
Justice Chandrachud said “the problem is when (authentication) technology is deterministic it can lead to deprivation of fundamental rights. Yesterday’s hearsay is today’s truth and today’s hearsay may be tomorrow’s truth. Nobody can predict what can happen tomorrow. Authentication failure or rejection or data mismatch should not result in deprivation of benefits”. Arguments will continue on Wednesday.