Aadhaar number citing its February 2017 order in a PIL, and said that the order did not contain any such direction. “In fact there was no such direction from the Supreme Court, but you took it and used it as tool to make Aadhaar mandatory for mobile users,” a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra remarked.
The bench, also comprising Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, is hearing a batch of petitions challenging the Constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Act. It said the February 2017 order in the Lokniti Foundation case only said that users should be verified in the interest of national security.
Justice Chandrachud referred to a notification issued by the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) regarding Aadhaar seeding and said that it stated this was being done in pursuance of the apex court order though the court had not issued any such direction. Senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), sought to explain saying the DoT notification was about re-verification of mobile numbers using e-KYC process. He added that the government was empowered under the Telegraph Act to decide on the license conditions of the service providers.
But the bench wondered how the government could use that to impose conditions on customers. Dwivedi added that the move to seed Aadhaar with phones was as per a recommendation of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. He contended that “the government had a legal basis to link Aadhaar with SIM by virtue of section 4 of the Telegraph Act and also, the measure is reasonable in the interest of national security”. He claimed that private players were collecting more personal data of users but no one was questioning them.
Banks and telecom companies have much “bigger data base” about the citizens, he said. “For example, Vodafone has much bigger data base of information even without Aadhaar. The Aadhaar data is immaterial for them.” The senior advocate also pointed to data of customers available with banks. “Every transaction as to what I purchased by using cards, where and when, all these information are with banks.These information are already there and being used for commercial purposes,” he said.
Buttressing his point, Dwivedi also drew the bench’s attention to an app using which information had been procured on himself and his family. The counsel handed over the info to the bench and said it even had details about how much fees he charged from the Jammu and Kashmir government for appearing in a case. On the control that UIDAI has over private and government entities that seek Aadhaar authentication for providing services and benefits to citizens, he said they cannot track any individual by using the information.
“Vodafone can do targeted advertising using the data which is already happening without Aadhaar. Vodafone has far more demographic data about an individual than UIDAI has,” Dwivedi said, adding that at the most, such details can result in a directory and targeted advertisements which were happening already.
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