The government says the 12-digit Aadhaar number assigned to citizens is a must for government services, filing returns, financial transactions and even mobile phones services
Mamata Banerjee’s government in West Bengal was questioned today by the Supreme Court for challenging the linking of the Aadhaar or national identification number to government welfare schemes. How can a state government challenge a law passed by the Centre, the court questioned. The Bengal government is among those who have challenged the rule to link the 12-digit unique identification number to welfare schemes. Petitions also challenge the linking of Aadhaar to bank accounts and mobile phones.
- Bengal’s petition is being heard along with another petition filed by social activist Raghav Tankha challenging the linking of Aadhaar with mobile phones.
- These petitions are being taken up separately from a batch of 21 petitions already being heard by the Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra.
- The centre says that the 12-digit unique ID or Aadhaar assigned to citizens is a must for government services, filing returns, financial transactions and even mobile phones services.
- Over a billion Indians have already registered for Aadhaar cards, which ascribe unique ID numbers, and record fingerprints and iris scans of each person.
- The government last week extended the deadline for linking Aadhaar to government welfare schemes to March 31 from the end of the year, but only for those who do not have an Aadhaar card yet. The Supreme Court has asked whether the deadline should be extended for all. The government is expected to respond to that question today.
- After recent reports of poor families being denied subsidized food grain in Jharkhand for not having Aadhaar cards, the centre asked states to ensure that people are not deprived of food.
- Aadhaar was set up to be a secure form of digital identification for citizens, one that they could use for government services. But as it was rolled out, concerns arose about privacy, data security and recourse for citizens in the face of data leaks and other issues.
- Critics say the Aadhaar identity card links enough data to allow profiling because it creates a comprehensive profile of a person’s spending habits, friends and acquaintances, property and other such data.
- In August, the Supreme Court had ruled that privacy is a fundamental right, though subject to reasonable restrictions. While acknowledging the right to privacy, Supreme Court judges asked the government to introduce legislation and measures to ensure that data is protected.
- The ruling did not comment on whether Aadhaar should be mandatory for financial transactions and welfare schemes, which is a separate, ongoing case.