The Supreme Court on Wednesday orally observed that there is nothing wrong in the “one nation-one identity” concept for citizens under the Aadhaar programme.
A five-judge Constitution Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A.K. Sikri, A.M. Kanwilkar, D.Y. Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan made this observation after senior counsel Kapil Sibal, appearing for one of the petitioners, attacked the Centre for allegedly branding those who didn’t possess Aadhaar as “anti-national”.
The counsel said: “There is nothing to suggest that I am not an Indian if I don’t have Aadhaar as long as I have other forms of identity.“ Mr Bhushan told Mr Sibal that “there is nothing wrong in one nation-one identity”. Mr Sibal countered this by saying in that case there is also nothing wrong in “one-nation-one-religion”.
Justice A.K. Sikri asked Mr Sibal not to enter into a political argument. The counsel replied that he would prove it was a legal argument and not a political one. He also said: “You (government) can’t call me a terrorist or anti-national if I don’t have Aadhaar, that is what we are objecting to.” Justice Sikri said: “The presumption under the PMLA law is that if you don’t prove your identity, you are a money-launderer. Mr Sibal said: “What I am trying to say is that it’s the blanket power given to the State which is dangerous. In this digital word, you are making me vulnerable to the hacking of data.”
He argued that any leakage of biometric data would be permanent. As this is a means of authentication to be effective at any point, the entire system must meet the underlying assumption of being 100 per cent accurate. If a few lakh people’s biometric data is at large and there is no track of whose data has been stolen, it introduces a doubt into every authentication carried out.
When Mr Sibal quoted a RBI report that the Central ID Repository (CIDR) was a single target for internal/external/foreign attacks, and in a few years data attacks can potentially cripple Indian businesses and the administration in ways that were inconceivable a few yeas ago, attorney-general K.K. Venugopal clarified that it was not a RBI report but a staff paper, which was not accepted. Mr Sibal said even if it was a staff paper, the information in it was relevant.
Mr Sibal argued that given the degree to which biometric technology impacts fundamental rights, it was best kept reserved for fighting terror and crime and was not appropriate for every interaction, like air or train travel, between the State and law-abiding citizens. The arguments will continue on Thursday.