Aadhaar contradicts the role of the state, say petitioners challenging scheme

Students and activists have organized rallies since September to protest the termination of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program

The A five-judge Constitution Bench will be hearing petitions challenging the validity of Aadhaar card and its mandatory linkage with several services along with other important cases.

The five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has begun hearing the matter related to the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Act on Wednesday.

"This leash is connected to a central database that is created to track transactions across the life of the citizen".

On Wednesday, the first day of the hearing, the court was told that Aadhaar was "an electronic leash" to which every resident of India was tethered, and a violation of the Constitution, as it reduces the recognition of an individual to a number.

In a spate of questions from the bench, Justice Chandrachud asked Divan if the State could not compel the citizens to part with their biometric profile in larger public interest. "Over time, the profiling enables the State to stifle dissent and influence political decision making", he argued.

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He also said the State must come up with alternative and less-intrusive identification schemes which did not act as instruments of exclusion. "Meanwhile senior Supreme Court lawyer Shyam Divan, appearing for the petitioners, said that Aadhaar will cause the death of civil rights of the citizens and transform a people's Constitution into a State's Constitution". He also added that for seven years, biometric data of individuals was collected without any legal framework, but only on executive orders.

When Justice A.M. Khanwilkar observed that the Aadhaar Act of 2016 would protect fundamental rights, Mr. Divan responded that crores of citizens had already been enrolled between 2009 and 2016, when the Act came into existence, and fundamental rights could not be protected retrospectively.

Divan replied: "Aadhaar destroys the identity of an individual and it has made the country a surveillance state, which is not permissible under the Constitution".

Aadhaar is a "little understood" programme that seeks to "tether every resident of India to an electronic leash".

"The Constitution of India is not a charter of servitude".

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