Rethink Aadhaar Newsletter: October 2019, Vol. I

Deadline for linking Aadhaar to PAN EXTENDED yet again 

The Finance Ministry has yet again extended the deadline by which people can link their Aadhaar numbers to PAN, until December 31, 2019. Rethink Aadhaar maintains that such linking is disproportionate and unconstitutional. A challenge to such linking is being heard in the Karnataka High Court wherein the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) has asked for more time to respond. The HC has directed the CBDT not to take any action against the petitioners for not linking Aadhaar to PAN until the hearing is complete.

ECI proposes amendments to the RP Act to allow Aadhaar-Voter ID linking

The Election Commission wrote to the Law Commission on August 13 proposing amendments to the Representation of the People Act, 1950, which would allow linking the Aadhaar number to Voter IDs. This follows the July 16 Delhi HC direction to the ECI to consider a plea for an Aadhaar-based voting system, in response to a PIL filed by BJP member Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay. Concerned citizens wrote to the ECI in response to that direction pointing out multiple reasons to dismiss linking Aadhaar numbers with Voter IDs, including the dangers of voter profiling highlighted by the Cambridge Analytica episode, and the fact that self-reported errors in Aadhaar data were found to be one-and-one-half times higher than errors in the electoral database. Rethink Aadhaar demands that the Law Commission dismiss the proposed amendments and ensure the sanctity of the electoral process in India, which the Election Commission has most grievously failed to do.

Madras HC dismisses Aadhaar-social media linking; SC tosses issue to Centre

On September 13, the Supreme Court directed the Centre to submit to the Court its plans for regulating social media companies, including progress that had been made on the intermediary liability rules, in what is being called the WhatsApp traceability case, before the next hearing on September 24. The Court was hearing Facebook’s petition to transfer four cases pending in three different High Courts. Earlier, on August 21, the Madras HC reiterated its view that Aadhaar cannot be used to authenticate social media accounts, as it violated the SC judgment on Aadhaar.

The SC’s Constitution Bench, in K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India (the 2018 Aadhaar judgment) ruled out the use of Aadhaar numbers by private parties. This apart, linking Aadhaar numbers with social media accounts could result in the commercialisation of peoples’ personal data, highlighted as a potential threat in Justice DY Chandrachud’s dissent:

“...But the real issue is whether the linking of Aadhaar cards is the least intrusive method of obviating the problems associated with subscriber verification. The state cannot be oblivious to the need to protect privacy and of the dangers inherent in the utilization of the Aadhaar platform by telecom service providers. In the absence of adequate safeguards, the biometric data of mobile subscribers can be seriously compromised and exploited for commercial gain.”

In any case, mandatory linking of Aadhaar numbers with social media accounts would also violate the proportionality principle laid down by the 9-judge Constitution Bench in K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India (the 2017 Privacy judgment).

Biometrics of people excluded from NRC and unable to prove citizenship to be flagged 

Reports that the Home Ministry will be flagging the biometrics of those residents of Assam excluded from the final National Register of Citizens list published on August 31 and unable to prove their citizenship even after approaching the Foreigners’ Tribunal have raised fresh questions on the use of the Aadhaar number to determine citizenship. Possessing the Aadhaar number does not constitute proof of citizenship as per the Aadhaar Act, 2016 (Section 9).

There is the additional concern that such collection of biometric data can enable surveillance - something also observed against the backdrop of deporting Rohingya refugees. The lack of a data protection law in India exposes those excluded from the NRC to further dangers of data "trafficking", which as a violation of privacy rights must be seen as equivalent to human trafficking. This last aspect has also been pointed out in some conversations - that creating a stateless class is only a way of providing cheap labour in the so-called fourth industrial age.

Adivasis from Pathalgadi villages publicly reject Aadhaar

Adivasi residents of Pathalgadi villages in Jharkhand have publically rejected Aadhaar as they are apprehensive that Aadhaar will ease exploitation of Adivasis and their resources by outsiders, as the unique identification system equates Adivasis with the ‘aam aadmi’ (common man). A fact-finding team of the Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha learned that “Pathalgadi, an ancient way of disseminating important information among the community, was also used to express dislike towards certain government actions”. The team found that the state responded to Pathalgadi with severe repression and violence.

The immediate trigger for Pathalgadi was the state government’s repeated attempts to amend the Chhotanagpur Tenancy Act to ease acquisition of Adivasi land. There is also anger against the constant attack on Adivasis’ right to self-governance. Gram Sabha is not consulted before implementing projects in Adivasi-dominated areas.

40-year old Jharkhand woman dies in childbirth, child sold for Rs. 10,000

40-year old Jhibal Tirkey, of Champanagar village in Jharkhand’s Gumla district, died on August 26, two days after birthing her eighth child, a girl who was subsequently sold for Rs. 10,000 to an unidentified family. Investigation into the case revealed that the family had no ration card, no Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) card and no LPG connection. Although the woman’s mother-in-law, Maudo, was eligible to receive pensions under the National Social Assistance Program, she never received any money due to a discrepancy between her voter ID, per which her age is 67, and her Aadhaar card, per which she is 51.

Marking the first anniversary of the Aadhaar judgment

The Aadhaar hearings by the Supreme Court’s Constitution Bench and  the subsequent judgment are a significant milestone in the struggle against Aadhaar. Rethink Aadhaar is therefore marking the first anniversary of the judgment this week as a reminder of how the fight against the Aadhaar onslaught is still ongoing. We trialled an online conversation open to the public on the takeaways from the Aadhaar judgment and on overcoming the lack of response from the UIDAI and the government on Aadhaar issues. We will be organising more such talks - do look out for our updates on Twitter and Facebook.

Aadhaar in the News

Series: One year after the Aadhaar judgment….

How Aadhaar Has Taken Over Our Lives

Spying on your body: Health Blueprint and Aadhaar

As Aadhaar's Idea Spreads From Kenya To Venezuela, We Still Need To Ask – Why ID?

What benefit does Aadhaar give to Indian citizens? And how will the NRC affect them?

Children continue to be perversely targeted

We need to keep talking about Aadhaar

Targeted money transfers using Aadhaar: A way to steal elections

‘It is a big hoax’: Col. Mathew Thomas

Concerns over linking Aadhaar to voter ID and social media accounts

Other recent news articles on Aadhaar

A polity drunk on Aadhaar

HC relief to JP Morgan in EPFO complaint (Company refused to share employees’ Aadhaar, bank details)

Voters hesitant to provide Aadhaar details to surveyors

Why Maj. Gen. Vombatkere has challenged Aadhaar Amendment Act in the Supreme Court

Two Men Arrested for Duping over 1,000 People on the Pretext of Linking Aadhaar Cards

Engage with us on Twitter: