Recently, there has been a huge uproar against the mandate of the Government of India for every person to link his/her Aadhaar Card to various services of the banks, mobile service providers, Income Tax Department, etc and to avail benefits of various Government Social Welfare Schemes such as midday meals, disability pension, rehabilitation for Bhopal gas tragedy victims, etc. Although the Government may have passed this mandate with a view to keep a track of an individual’s financial transactions, a transparency in his/her property dealings and filing of tax returns, and to prevent any instances of money laundering, etc, but consequently, the public may have to bear a huge risk associated with mandatory linking of Aadhaar to the various databases.
There may be instances after an Aadhaar is linked with any of the databases, where the individual’s activities may get disclosed and monitored by the Government. For instance, if a person’s bank account is linked with his Aadhaar and he books a railway ticket online or does shopping online, that particular booking transaction, indirectly, may store the particular travel/shopping details, as the case may be. Moreover, when someone’s mobile number is linked with his Aadhaar, all the details about his calls, messages, etc may get monitored. As a result, it may pose to be a threat to the privacy of a person whose Aadhaar has been linked to the various databases.
The general public reportedly has opposed the mandatory Aadhaar-linking on the grounds of issues of surveillance and privacy, risk of identity theft and of information being stolen, replicated, faked or misused by third parties, including the enrollment agencies, who may gain access to the entire demographic and biometric database along with the allotted Aadhaar numbers. Moreover, when any unscrupulous and/or deceitful parties gain access to the biometric database of a person, such data may be put to wrong and illegal use by terrorists, anti-nationals, or illegal immigrants to finance terrorism, or execute organized crime in the country, it may render the objectives of mandatory linking of Aadhaar ineffective and counter-productive. It is generally believed that the hazards of Aadhaar-linking with the databases may outweigh the benefits that the Government may reap out of it.
The Supreme Court in a case of Justice K.S. Puttaswamy vs. Union of India 2017 SCC OnLine SC 996 on 24.08.2017 has held that the right to privacy is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Currently, a number of public interest litigations (PILs) have also been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the Government’s mandate of Aadhaar-linking to various such services on the grounds of issues of privacy, etc. But the Government has sought time from the Apex Court as they are in the process of drafting a data protection legislation.
Therefore, the Government has extended the deadlines for mandatory Aadhaar-linking in the following cases until the Supreme Court pronounces the verdict on this issue:
- Permanent account number (PAN): 31.12.2017,
- Mobile numbers: 06.02.2018,
- Bank accounts: 31.03.2018,
- Various Government Social Welfare Schemes: 31.03.2018, etc.