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Why in news?

  • The Supreme Court, in a majority opinion, upheld Aadhaar as a reasonable restriction on individual privacy that fulfils the government’s “legitimate aim” to provide dignity to a large, marginalised population living in abject poverty.

History of Aadhar:

  • Aadhar is a 12-digit unique identification number issued by the Indian government to every individual resident of India. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UDAI), which functions under the Planning Commission of India, is responsible for managing Aadhar numbers and Aadhar identification cards.
  • The Aadhar project was initiated as an attempt towards having an individual, unique identification document or number that would obtain all the details, including demographic and biometric information, of every Indian citizen.
  • The first initiative towards a unique nationalised digital identity was the approval of a Multipurpose National Identity Card (MNIC) in 2003 by the NDA government.
  • Focussing on national security and ways by which to deter illegal immigration, the project had proposed different coloured cards for citizens and non-citizens.
  • The pilot project, taken up in April 2003, and covering 29 Lakh people in 13 states appeared to have undergone some change during the course of its implementation, notably in the addition of biometrics for all adults and in the doing away of different aren’t coloured cards. Several organisations led by the NIC helped to set up an infrastructure that included 20 centres to handle the citizen database.
  • With the change in the governing party, an empowered group of ministers (EGOM) headed by Shri Pranab Mukherjee was formed. A proposal to set up the UIDAI was mooted in August 2008 and soon after, the decision to notify the UIDAI as an executive authority under the planning commission was taken.
  • The current avatar of the UID scheme or Aadhar and it is called as a centralised, biometrics-based database took shape under the guidance of Nandan Nilekani, erstwhile head of the IT major Infosys, who took over as the first Chairperson of the UIDAI.

Supreme court verdict:

  • The majority view by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices A.K. Sikri and A.M. Khanwilkar declared Aadhaar a “document of empowerment.” An “unparalleled” identity proof. A document that cannot be duplicated unlike PAN, ration card, and passport.
  • The majority view by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices A.K. Sikri and A.M. Khanwilkar declared Aadhaar a “document of empowerment.” An “unparalleled” identity proof. A document that cannot be duplicated unlike PAN, ration card, and passport. “It is better to be unique than the best. The best makes you number one, but unique makes you the only one,” Justice Sikri, who authored the majority opinion, wrote. Aadhaar gives dignity to marginalised sections, which outweighs the harm,” said the court in its verdict on 27 petitions that challenged the constitutional validity of Aadhaar and called it a violation of the right to privacy. The court said “very, very minimal data” is collected for Aadhaar, that other documents required for Aadhaar are also proof of identity.
  • The Bench struck down section 57 of the Aadhaar Act, which allows private entities to use Aadhaar for verification purposes.
  • Section 33(2) that allows UIDAI to share data with specially authorised officers in the interest of national security, was also struck down.
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