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In this Saumya Agarwal, Student, Amity Law School, Delhi writes about the purpose for issuing aadhaar cards and the recent judgements related to it.


Right to privacy is a basic right which has to be protected by the State. Though it’s not a fundamental right at present but our Constitution makers have incorporated it as an interpretation of Article 21. There is no separate right to privacy as such.

According to Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 right to privacy means “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”

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Adhaar Card Scheme

Aadhaar Cards are issued to the residents of the country by the central government agency of India, Unique Identification Authority of India which is attached to the Planning Commission of India which is now called NITI Ayog. The scheme was launched by the Government of India in 2009 with the objective to give universal identity to each resident of India. The cards are issued to the residents after collecting the biometric and demographic data of the residents, storing them in a centralized database and issuing a 12-digit unique identity number. It is world’s largest national identification number project.

There were a lot of difficulties initially such as non-cooperation of the citizens, technical snags, incorrect data display, etc. Even the purpose of the Aadhaar cards was unclear.

Some civil liberty groups like Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties and Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF) have opposed the scheme on privacy concerns.

Purpose of Issuing the Card

Some of the reasons for issuing the Aadhar cards are:

  • The Unique Identification number identifies each resident’s unique identity. The identity which he can be used for public and private agencies across the country. It also creates an opportunity to address the existing limitations in financial inclusion. It also helps the poor residents to easily establish their identity to banks.[1]
  • As the identification number will be issued to each of the citizens, the government will be able to have a record of the population of the country.
  • Access to finance has remained scarce in rural India. All the rural residents do not have access to bank accounts. People will not have to produce a bulk of the documents while opening a bank account. Hence, they will have access to banks for opening accounts.
  • Aadhaar based Direct Benefit Transfer (LPG Subsidy) – The 12 digit individual identification number on Aadhaar Card is used to get LPG subsidy amount directly in the bank account. This DBTL scheme is named as PAHAL. The PAHAL will mark the end of the duplicate or misuse of LPG connections which are very common in India.

What is the controversy all about?

The three-judge Bench led by Justice J. Chelameswar gave an interim order on 23 September 2013 saying that “Aadhaar Card is voluntary and not mandatory” leaving the decision completely on the citizens if they want to register. However on 11th August 2015, the Supreme Court ordered the government that an Aadhaar card will not be used for any other purpose except other than the PDS Scheme, particularly for distribution of food grains and cooking such as kerosene. It was also used for the LPG distribution scheme. The Court also said that Aadhaar card should not be used for any other purpose, except as might be directed by a court for the purpose of criminal investigation.[2]

It is argued by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi that right to privacy is not a fundamental right but just an extension of judicial interpretation under Section 21 while defending the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar card. He cited a 1954 judgment (M.P. Sharma vs Satish Chandra) in which the eight-judge bench held that there is no such thing as a fundamental privacy right. He asked a nine-judge bench to examine whether privacy is a fundamental right in India while arguing before Justice J. Chelameswar, Justice SA Bobde and Justice C Nagappan. The petitions that were clubbed are:

  • P (C) No. 439 of 2012 titled S. Raju v. Govt. of India and Ors.
  • PIL No. 10 of 2012 titled Vickram Crishna and Others v. UIDAI and Ors.
  • P. No. 833 of 2013 titled Aruna Roy & Anr. v. Union of India
  • P. No. 829 of 2013 titled S.G. Vombatkere & Anr v. Union of India & Ors.
  • Petition(s) for Special Leave to Appeal (Crl) No(s).2524/2014 titled Unique Identification Authority of India & Another v. Central Bureau of Investigation.

for the ongoing case of  K. Puttaswamy v. Union of India.

There is a lack of clarity on the issue as there were many smaller bench judgments during the 1990s which held that right to privacy can be sometimes interpreted as a fundamental right in India.


In theory, each citizen has a right to protect his own privacy according to his or her own reasoning, including his own well-being. No one can have a better understanding of his or her own privacy except the individual himself.

The scheme lacks legal backing. The government can abuse the data which will be collected under the scheme. The biometric information collected from all those people who have signed up has to be protected by an adequate legal safeguard. Limits should be placed on the government’s ability to gather the information.

The courts have to come to a clear stand on the right to privacy whether right to privacy is a fundamental right or not. Because the right to privacy unlike other rights, which have been a judicial extension of Article 21, affects everyone. The technology has advanced so much these days that not only the government but an individual can also snoop into others privacy. A terrorist attack on the government database will result in privacy violation of millions of people. The number of potential violations will be so large that correcting them will burden the already overburdened judiciary.





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