The Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act, 2016 has some curiously preposterous clauses that directly undermine the fundamental right to life.
Clause 6: The Authority may require Aadhaar number holders to update their demographic information and biometric information, from time to time, in such manner as may be specified by regulations, so as to ensure continued accuracy of their information in the Central Identities Data Repository.
The above is again repeated in Clause 31.
Biometric information, though mentioned in the same breath as demographic information, is vastly different from the latter. When a person changes his place of residence (demographic information), he is fully well aware of it and hence may take steps to update it, like he is expected to do at other places like bank accounts, passport, etc. But how will he know that his biometrics (fingerprints, iris scan) have changed to an extent that they need to be updated in the CIDR? Either one has to play safe and regularly visit the Aadhaar centre for updating, or wait for an actual authentication failure on the field. It’s anyone’s guess what dire situation one might be in when the Aadhaar server turns him away!
The above clause is in effect an admission of the unreliability of biometric technology and attempts a weak cover-up. Also, there is no mention of how one will establish his identity when he goes to update his biometrics, which by itself is billed as the cornerstone of Aadhaar. It turns out that Aadhaar is the weakest of all identity documents one may have, as it actually counts for nothing! The confusion is nowhere more apparent than in the way children are being enrolled (see How will children be captured in the database?). We are to understand that ages 5 and 15 are “biometric milestones” in a person’s lifetime!
The right to life implies the right to live with dignity, to be in control of one’s own destiny, to rightfully demand what is due and to enjoy what is earned. Much of all this depends on being able to establish one’s identity unambiguously, on demand or when needed. Aadhaar places this very identity on shaky ground, leaving the citizen in a perpetually suspended state.
Clause 47(1): No court shall take cognizance of any offence punishable under this Act, save on a complaint made by the Authority or any officer or person authorised by it.
Offences covered under this Act include such things as pilferage of identity information, by enrolling agencies or from the CIDR or by requesting entities (service providers who request Aadhaar authentication).
It may be fair to assume that only the records of identity maintained by the UIDAI are its property and hence its responsibility. But the above clause assumes ownership of the identity itself. If one’s biometric information were to be compromised at any point in the Aadhaar chain, all that the person can do is to request the UIDAI to take umbrage and action on his behalf. Contrast that with say loss of passport, where the affected individual can file an FIR.
The proponents of Aadhaar want it to be cast very wide. We already have tablet apps advertised that promise to provide Aadhaar authentication. It will be a breeze to skim the biometrics and thereby gain access to everything that accepts Aadhaar authentication. This already doomsday scenario is compounded by the above clause that virtually stonewalls any attempt at prosecution.
The above clause institutionalises the notion of all citizens being mere puppets in the hands of the state. Right to life is meaningless if one cannot defend what is his own, his identity being the most prized of them all.