SC wonders how sharing Aadhaar number affects citizens in a 'networked' world

SC wonders how sharing Aadhaar number affects citizens in a 'networked' world

Citizens have already shared info with many, says court

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked Aadhaar challengers to explain how asking citizens to cite the 12-digit number made any difference, as people were otherwise living in a networked world and sharing all their personal details with other entities.

A five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra observed that all other personal data of citizens was with private entities and asked the petitioners how insertion of Aadhaar number would make any change.

"Our personal data is anyway with private entities. So, does interpolation of Aadhaar number make any difference," the bench asked senior advocate Shyam Divan, who is appearing for some of the petitioners.

The bench, which also comprised Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, told the lawyer that citizens were living in a networked world now.

Citizens' consent

Divan said since private entities were part of the enrollment process for Aadhaar, the data collected by them could be "completely compromised". "Democracy, after all, entails choices. Is there any request by citizens or consent on their part for massive profiling? Is it permissible under the Constitution to have a complete surveillance society," he asked.

During the hearing, the court observed that biometric information, which was collected during the process of Aadhaar enrollment, was deposited in a central database and citizens were required to only give their 12-digit unique number for the purpose of identification.

The bench is hearing a clutch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the government's flagship Aadhaar programme and its enabling act of 2016.

Divan, for his part, said around 49,000 private agencies involved in the process of enrollment for Aadhaar, were blacklisted last year by the government, which has raised a serious question mark over the sanctity of data, including biometrics of citizens, collected by them.

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