With all the uproar regarding the linking of the PAN Card with the Aadhaar Card all this while, with citizens arguing that it violates an individual’s privacy, and the Supreme Court countering back stating that the biometric data does not cause a breach of privacy.
Aadhaar Card was barred from being used for KYC authentication purposes, but was still used for Pan Card and ITR filing. The government had welcomed the Supreme Court move, with the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley saying Aadhaar had helped the government in saving Rs. 90,000 in a year by targeting beneficiaries and plugging leakages.
There is, however, a huge change to be witnessed in the government’s decision over the Aadhaar Act, who has been mulling over amending the Aadhaar Act. It is, in fact, in its last stage to finalise the proposal over the amendment of the Aadhaar Act. The revised Aadhaar Act would give citizens an option to withdraw their Aadhaar number, including biometrics and data.
The Supreme Court’s landmark judgement over Aadhaar
The Supreme Court had earlier upheld the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar with certain riders. The court had said that Aadhaar plays a major role in serving benefits to marginalised sections of the society and gives them an identity. The SC had mandated Aadhaar for purposes like availing government subsidies, applying for a PAN Card and filing income tax returns. It had also questioned the use of Aadhaar in some areas, like linking the Aadhaar number to the individual’s bank account and personal mobile number. It also emphasised that children are not to be denied availing benefits from any government schemes even if they do not possess an Aadhaar Card.
The court also found storage of Authentication records for up to 5 years unconstitutional and said that it should be stored only for a period of six months by all means.
The UIDAI Proposal
This proposal was drafted by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). As per a senior official, “once a child turns 18, he/she will be given six months to decide if he/she wants to withdraw.”
This proposal had been sent to the Law Ministry for vetting, however, the Supreme Court said that the option to withdraw should be made available to all the citizens and should not be restricted to only a particular group.
Yet, the catch here is that the amendment in the Aadhaar Act will benefit only those who do not own a PAN Card or do not require one, as the court had earlier upheld the linking of PAN with Aadhaar. Reportedly, over 37.50 crore PANs have been issued till March 12, 2018. Out of these, around 16.54 crore have been linked with Aadhaar.
In lieu of the court order, the proposal is willing to appoint an adjudicating officer for deciding if a person’s Aadhaar-related data needs to be disclosed in the interest of national security.
The Supreme Court Scraps Section 33 (2)
The court had struck down Section 33(2) which allowed disclosure of Aadhaar information for national security reasons on the orders of an officer who is not below Joint Secretary in the hierarchy. It had said that an officer above Joint Secretary should consult a judicial officer in this matter and take a call together.
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