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Biometric aadhaar is linked to land acquisition, land titling: Inform Supreme Court about violation of its orders

By Gopal Krishna*
The questionable 12-digit biometric unique identity (UID)/aadhaar number cannot be made mandatory for any government service, according to the Supreme Court orders of September 23, 2013, November 26, 2013, March 24, 2014 and March 16, 2015. Yet, so far opposition parties have failed to note that biometric aadhaar number is linked to legislations on land acquisition and land titling.
It is abundantly clear that the biometric aadhaar number case has become the litmus test to demonstrate whether rule of law still exists in India or biometric surveillance companies have subverted Indian legal and political system for good. In the current situation, it is the moral and political duty of the genuine opposition parties to ensure that aadhaar is abandoned.
It is noteworthy that Section 10 and 36 of the land titling bill is linked to aadhaar. It has been disclosed in writing by the government that new land acquisition law was meant to create a "perfect land market", and by former chairman, Unique Identity Authority of India (UIDAI), that national ID will help create a common land market, which he will have us believe reduce poverty. If any citizen of India has been denied or being denied any entitlement or government service because she he doesn't have 12 digit biometric UID/aadhaar number, the Supreme Court must be informed about it (fax and email: supremecourt@nic.in ).
The message must mention, "For the kind attention of Hon'ble Mr Justice Chelameswar and companion judges hearing the matter regarding aadhaar, in the matter of Writ Petition (Civil) Nos. 833 of 2013 and 494 of 2012". The submissions need to be made before April 30.
The attached order of Chief Justice bench of Punjab and Haryana High Court in CWP No 569 of 2013 dated March 2, 2013 established that when the High Court raised questions of legality of aadhaar, the Union of India withdrew the circular making aadhaar mandatory for acceptance of application for registration of vehicle and learner/regular driving license. By implication this is relevant to all the departments and agencies which are making aadhaar mandatory.
The fact is there is a compelling logic for abandoning the biometric aadhaar project the way it has been done in UK, China, Australia, France, USA and Philippines. UIDAI has been severely indicted by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance in its report placed before Parliament. The Standing Committee rejected the National Identification Authority of India Bill which sought to legitimize UIDAI's illegal status post facto. It observed that while framing of relevant law is under way, the continuance of the UID/aadhaar project is "unethical and violation of Parliament's prerogatives".
The collection of biometric and personal data and issuing of aadhaar/UID numbers do not have any statutory sanction until the Bill is passed by Parliament. It is noteworthy that EAS Sarma, former secretary to the Government of India, wrote to the Prime Minister, "Government's right to collect information relating to individual citizens, unless necessitated by national security considerations, arises from its role as a trustee on behalf of the citizens.”
He adds, “As such, the relevant information has a great deal of sanctity attached to it. The government holds such information in a purely fiduciary capacity. The citizen's privacy cannot therefore be wantonly and irresponsibly violated by a fiat of executive instructions initiated at the instance of individuals who are more interested in inducting private agencies not accountable to the people and the legislature, than upholding the public interest."
Sarma says, "It is bizarre that the government should first collect personal information from unsuspecting citizens as a trustee and then surreptitiously pass on the ownership of such information to a private agency, guided more by the profit motive than the public interest. It is equally bizarre that the government should demote its own role to that of a customer of the private company in seeking access to the information base. All this amounts to a gross breach of the trust reposed by the citizens in the government.”
According to him, “The proposal becomes all the more dubious in view of the monopolistic status sought to be given to the private agency ‘owning’ the citizens' information in its hands. I feel that the proposal is an ominous one as it would involve an outright handing over of the citizens' private information to a few private agencies whose motives could never be gauged and who have no accountability to the legislature. It is a proposal that should be rejected forthwith without any hesitation."
He concludes saying, "I get the uncomfortable feeling that it forms part of a more dubious scheme being contemplated by your government. If the government persists with this scheme, I will not hesitate to seek judicial intervention in this matter."
Although belated in the aftermath of disclosures by Wikileaks, Edward Snowden, Citizen Four, Grec Greenwald and the surveillance of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose by MI 5 after independence, now that the fearful ramifications are visible on the horizon, the question is who is stopping non-Congress and non-BJP ruled states from unsigning the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that they have signed with UIDAI.
It is noteworthy that one of the most successful examples of implementation of biometric identification is Pakistan. What has improved in Pakistan due to its implementation? Even SIM cards in Pakistan are done based on biometric identification. The current government is following the footprints of an experiment which has been tried, tested and failed.
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*Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), New Delhi. Contact: krishnagreen@gmail.com@gmail.com

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