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SC seeks Centre’s response on PIL challenging Aadhaar project

The Supreme Court today asked the central government to respond within two weeks its stand on the Unique Identity scheme (Aadhaar). A bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu was hearing a new Public Interest Litigation (PIL) challenging the scheme as devised at present.

According to the petition moved by Mathew Thomas, private parties who have been outsourced to collect information about citizens can misuse massive personal data in their hands and corrupt them, as happened in a few cases.

The scheme at present is not under government control, senior counsel Gopal Subramanium argued.

Though there is already a petition pending in the court, moved by a retired Karnataka High Court judge challenging the Aadhaar project of the UPA regime, the new petition specifically challenges the validity of Section 14-A of the Citizenship Act, 1955.

This provision makes it compulsory for every citizen to get her details entered into National Register of Indian Citizens. The petition says that this provision is unconstitutional.

“It is not the mandate of the Citizenship Act to collect statistics and details of residents and citizens in India which detail is to be collected only under the Census Act. Whether or not a person’s name has to be included as a citizen in the NRIC cannot be decided by the officer entering such details in the National Population Register; and further, it seeks to collect private data of the citizens without providing for any restriction on its disclosure, use and transmission,” the petition emphasized.

 After hearing Subramanium, the judges called Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar to the court and asked him the government’s stand. He said he needed two weeks to clarify the official stand. Thus the case will be taken up on February 13.

Subramanium submitted that the standing committee chairman Yashwant Sinha had written a detailed statement cautioning the UPA government against the scheme. He said that UK, Australia and some European countries have scrapped similar schemes because of the fear of violation of privacy.

The petition stated that while UID enrolment form itself does not seek information concerning ones’ religion, the same is easily discernable from a person’s name. Further, the application form of certain banks like State Bank of India require a client to disclose information such as caste, income and religion.

This enables anyone having access to UID database to profile the population on the basis of any of the identity traits, it is argued.

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