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Aadhar Hearing Day 25: AG argues Biometrics can solve problems such as money laundering, bank frauds, income tax evasions etc

AG continued his arguments today and began reading from the note on biometrics. J. Chandrachud reiterated that the problem with Aadhar is that the administrative authority can define section 2(g) of the act. This might not meet the test of proportionality. AG continued reading from the note and stated that finger imaging technology is 99.9% accurate. AG submitted that biometrics is a very safe and accurate technology. He argued that biometrics can solve problems such as money laundering, bank frauds, income tax evasion etc.  J. Sikri however remarked that bank frauds weren’t caused because of multiple identities. J. chandrachud said, “Aadhar will not prevent an individual from operating layers of commercial transactions. It won’t prevent bank frauds either. It can only help in providing benefits under section 7 at most.” “Mere legitimate state interest does not ensure proportionality. Your submission lacks this nuance.” he added. AG responded that Aadhar will help in income disparity and elimination of poverty.

Sikri J. yet again remarked that the gap was widening and more than 70% wealth was in the hands of 1% J. Chandrachud added to the discussion that Proportionality was the key. “How far can the states cast the net of Aadhar? Only section 7 seems to be understandable” he pointed. J. Sikri said, “You cannot assume that the entire population consists of defaulters and violators. What is the logic in linking all sim cards to Aadhar.” To which AG replied that terrorism will be curbed by doing this. J. Chandrachud questioned, “Do terrorists apply for sim cards? It’s a problem that you’re asking the entire population to link their mobile phones with Aadhar.” AG responded, “ we are asking for minimal information via Aadhar. Most information is already available in public domain.” He stated that the question was to what extent has Aadhar invaded privacy? “ it’s as minimum as possible” added the AG.

Thereafter the Bench rose for lunch and reassembled at 2.30 pm.

After lunch the AG resumed his submissions. He stated that Aadhar is required only for section 7 benefits, banks, income tax and mobile nos. Apart from that it is purely voluntary. He emphasized that linking Aadhar with mobile no. would help in curbing terrorism. AG argued that the court needs to balance two competing rights. He submitted that right to food, right to employment, right to medical care, etc triumphed over right to privacy. “Can right to privacy be invoked to deprive other sections of the society” asked the AG. He repeated that the invasion to privacy is so minimal that it can’t even be considered an invasion. He cited the case of X v. Hospital Z wherein right to privacy was balanced against right to information. In this case the appellant ( a man) had HIV and had the right to non disclosure. However, the court had held that his fiancé had the right to know of his disease.

Sikri J. however pointed that this was the case of balancing the rights of two people. “In the case of Aadhar, you’re giving a person food in exchange of their privacy.” He said. AG stated that the bare minimal requirements for identification for an individual is alone taken and to the extent that the technology permitted. “Should people have basic right to life under article 21? Can it ever be challenged on the ground that we have a right to privacy” questioned the AG. J. Bhushan responded that minimal invasion was subjective. “What may be minimal for you might not be minimal for others”

AG requested the bench to look at the information that is taken and look at it from objective standards. “We have to look at the larger interest of the country.” He added. J. Chandrachud however replied, “ we have to look at three things: informed consent, purpose limitation, and enough security.” The AG replied that the CIDR was completely safe. J. Chandrachud again remarked, “we have to look at what proportionality means. Proportionality hasn’t been defined in the Puttaswamy judgement.” AG submitted that without the minimal information that is collected, the entire architecture of Aadhar couldn’t have been framed. He stated that sections 29 a and b contained purpose of limitation. Thereafter AG cited a few cases on balancing of fundamental rights. He stated that Aadhar was voluntary when it was rolled out, therefore there is no question of violation of any right. He argued that informed consent was implied.

Sikri J. questioned, “ Is it permissible to say that I’ll give you food, shelter, etc but you’ll be my slave?” to which AG responded that slavery was not permissible. J. Chandrachud yet again pointed, “Your argument to save the validity of the act does not take into account what happened before the act was passed. There was no protection for the citizens that time.” He noted that there was no retrospective effect also. ”What about collection of data by state governments? “he inquired. AG replied that the state governments act as the agent of the central government.

Senior counsel Rakesh Dwivedi intervened in between stating that proof of concept study was conducted in rural areas before Aadhar was decided upon. He argued that IT act after 2009 empowered the use of Aadhar for the purpose of e commerce. J. Khanwilkar inquired whether biometrics locking option was available for people who don’t want to use Aadhar. Adv. Divan interjected it saying that there is no way to opt out of the Aadhar system.

Thereafter the Bench rose for the day.

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