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Apex Court aadhaar verdict: A "missed opportunity" to save Indians from anonymous donors' dictatorship

By Gopal Krishna*
Verdict of Supreme Court of 4 Judges of the 5-Judge Constitution Bench on biometric data based 12 digit Unique Identification (UID) number branded as Aadhaar is manifestly unscientific and anti-poor. The verdict was delivered on September 26, 2018. It has taken citizens to pre-Magna Carta days (1215 AD) or even earlier, to the days prior to the declaration of Cyrus, the Persian King (539 BC) that willed freedom for slaves.
The Court failed to rigorously examine the ramifications of biometric information based identification of residents of India in the light of global experiences. UK, China, Australia, US and France have scrapped similar initiatives. US Supreme Court, Philippines’ Supreme Court and European Court of Human Rights have ruled against the indiscriminate biometric profiling of citizens without warrant.
UID/Aadhaar is akin to Sanjay Gandhi's forced family planning programs. Even Sanjay Gandhi faced the adverse consequences of forcing planning on human body. Aadhaar-linked programs make Indian citizens subjects of Big Data companies.
The opening statement of the verdict authored by by Justices AK Sikri and concurred by, Dipak Mishra, and A.M. Khanwilkar reads: “It is better to be unique than the best. Because, being the best makes you the number one, but being unique makes you the only one. Unique makes you the only one’ is the central message of Aadhaar, which is on the altar facing constitutional challenge in these petitions.”
This opening statement in the order is questionable from scientific point of view. A report “Biometric Recognition: Challenges and Opportunities” of the National Research Council, USA published on 24 September 2010 concluded that the current state of biometrics is ‘inherently fallible’. That is also one of the findings of a five-year study. This study was jointly commissioned by the CIA, the US Department of Homeland Security and the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Another study titled “Experimental Evidence of a Template Aging Effect in Iris Biometrics” supported by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Biometrics Task Force and the Technical Support Working Group through Army contract has demolished the widely accepted fact that iris biometric systems are not subject to a template aging effect. The study provides evidence of a template aging effect.
A “template aging effect” is defined as an increase in the false reject rate with increased elapsed time between the enrollment image and the verification image. The study infers, “We find that a template aging effect does exist. We also consider controlling for factors such as difference in pupil dilation between compared images and the presence of contact lenses, and how these affect template aging, and we use two different algorithms to test our data.”
A report “Biometrics: The Difference Engine: Dubious security” published by “The Economist” (October 1, 2010) observed, “Biometric identification can even invite violence. A motorist in Germany had a finger chopped off by thieves seeking to steal his exotic car, which used a fingerprint reader instead of a conventional door lock.”
Notwithstanding similar unforeseen consequences Prime Minister’s faith in biometric remains unshaken. It seems that considerations other than truth have given birth to this faith. Is there a biological material in the human body that constitutes biometric data which is immortal, ageless and permanent? 
Besides working conditions, humidity, temperature and lighting conditions also impact the quality of biological material used for generating biometric data. UID/Aadhaar is based on the unscientific and questionable assumption that there are parts of human body likes fingerprint, iris, voice etc” that does not age, wither and decay with the passage of time.
Stalwarts like Justice VR Krishna Iyer, a people’s judge of the Supreme Court, SR Sankaran, a people's bureaucrat and KG Kannibaran, author of “The Wages of Impunity”, had opposed biometric UID/Aadhaar and Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). Their views were endorsed by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance. The dissenting order of Justice Chandrachud echoes their views. The Bhartiya Janata Party-led Government like the previous Congress Party led Government has been bulldozing the Unique Identification (UID) /Aadhaar number database project down the throat of citizens.
Before their death Justice Iyer, Kannabiran and Sankaran issued a Statement of Concern against the biometric UID/aadhaar number in September 2010 along with fourteen other eminent citizens. The Statement of Concern reads:
“The project that proposes to give every resident a `unique identity number’ is a matter of great concern for those working on issues of food security, NREGA, migration, technology, decentralisation, constitutionalism, civil liberties and human rights....This project is intended to collect demographic data about all residents in the country." It further reads: "The involvement of firms such as Ernst & Young and Accenture raise further questions about who will have access to the data, and what that means to the people of India."
The statement also observed the following: "Constitutionality of this project, including in the matter of privacy, the relationship between the state and the people, security and other fundamental rights."
In the light of the tragic cases of civil death and actual deaths caused by UID/Aadhaar project since September 2010, there is a compelling logic for abandoning this project like other civilized countries. This project treats citizens worse than prisoners. It is aimed at enslaving present and future generations of Indians including future PMs, CMs, Judges and soldiers by the beneficial owners of ungovernable technology companies who have turned political parties into puppets through their limitless anonymous donations.
In the face of assault on citizens’ rights and the emergence of a regime that is making legislatures and judiciary subservient to automatic identification, big data mining and artificial intelligence companies, the majority verdict on UID/Aadhaar project and Aadhaar Act has undermined the sovereignty of the country.
Majority verdict of the Supreme Court has missed the opportunity to save Indians from the dictatorship of anonymous donors who have compromised national security and almost all the public institutions.
If it is not reviewed soon India's social policies will be guided by biometric and genetic determinism and eugenic thinking or not. It demonstrates that right to have natural and human rights of citizens can be made conditional by their servant, the government.
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*Convener, Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), involved in the research and advocacy against surveillance technologies like UID/Adhaar and DNA profiling. CFCL appeared before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance that questioned and trashed the biometric identification of Indians for UID/Aadhaar

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