Aadhaar bill: With no respect for the law

There is reason to wonder if this law is intended to be taken seriously, except in getting everyone on the data base, making it a scheme to number the population, and giving extraordinary powers to the UIDAI.

Written by Usha Ramanathan | Updated: March 17, 2016 2:17 pm
Aadhar bill, Rajya sabha, lok sabha To give Mr Jaitley his due, he has been honest this time round and dropped even the pretence of consent.

The disrespect for the law has been an abiding aspect of the UID project, never mind the government (facts have mattered as little, but that is for another time).

In the beginning there was no law; only an executive notification which meant that people did not have any idea of what the scope and limits of the project were. Then, when the pressure built up for a law to be enacted, a Bill was introduced in Rajya Sabha in December 2010, over two months after collection of information and enrolment had begun. In December 2011, a Standing Committee of Parliament, having considered the Bill and the project, rejected not just the Bill but also found that the project should go back to the drawing board.

In the beginning, the project was promoted as voluntary. Then, by the end of 2012, the people of this country were warned that the UID was becoming compulsory in a variety of fields, and we had better get enrolled or risk getting left out. When people went to court challenging the project as being a tool for surveillance, as violative of privacy, as based on imperfect and untested technology, and the court directed that the UID number should not be made mandatory, that order was unapologetically flouted. It was the bullying and threats of exclusion from subsidies and services that drove people to enrol, and then that was projected as voluntary enrolment.

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Now, we are told that the number on the data base is close to a 100 crore, and that that establishes it as a project loved and happily adopted by the people. The troughs and swells of enrolment, however, would tell another tale. Whenever the court spoke to say that no one can be denied any service because they do not have a UID number, there would be a dramatic slowing down of enrolment. When the government would override this injunction and refuse any service to those who could not show they had enrolled, the enrolments would go up. To suggest that this data base was built with the ‘consent’ of the people enrolling would be farther from the truth than imagination can reach. To give Mr Jaitley his due, he has been honest this time round and dropped even the pretence of consent. It doesn’t matter what you think of enrolment; just do it, or else.

From its early stages, privacy was recognised as a serious concern in the context of this project, but it was sidestepped on the pretext either that privacy was a thing of the past anyway, what with Google and Facebook and social media; or that privacy is a larger issue than just the UID project and so should be dealt with in some other forum. Till the day the Attorney General told the court, on behalf of the project, that privacy is not even a fundamental right in the Indian Constitution. That the government was arguing in another case in a courtroom down the corridor that the court should not shoot down the criminal offence of defamation so that the government could safeguard the privacy interests of the people, is a demonstration of deep cynicism and of the importance of tactical ploys over constitutional principles.

Then, when the August 11, 2015 order of the Supreme Court became an obstruction to mandating enrolment, and demand the number as a precondition to getting any service or subsidy, that prompted the move to get past the court order by the passage of the law. And so, the short-circuiting of the Constitution and shortchanging Parliament.

The words Consolidated Fund of India feature in the Bill; but Article 110 is unfortunately clear that a money bill can by definition only contain provisions that pertain to the specific categories of taxation and appropriation from the Consolidated Fund or the Contingency Fund of India; and even incidental taxes, fines and penalties do not a money bill make. The ‘only’ speaks volumes. The UID Bill no way fits the definition of a money bill.

In fact, what the Bill does not do is provide any subsidy, benefit or service. All it does is to say that, if anything is going to be provided by the state, then the UID number may be made a ‘condition’ to getting anything done.

The definitions of each of these terms – subsidies, benefits, services – is sprawling and all over the place. So, ‘benefit’ means any advantage, gift, reward, relief, or payment, in cash or kind …”, and it can be made conditional on UID enrolment. And any private company or person too can ask for the UID number beforehanding over such ‘benefits’. How much of this idea of benefits, or services, including that with which a private company is concerned, has to do with the Consolidated Fund? Does it matter?

There is reason to wonder if this law is intended to be taken seriously, except in getting everyone on the data base, making it a scheme to number the population, and giving extraordinary powers to the UIDAI. Why? Take a look at the definition of ‘resident’. It says that only residents will be enrolled and given numbers; and to qualify as a resident a person must have been resident in India for at least 182 days in the preceding 12 months. One can provide evidence of not being in the country for a certain period by producing a travel document, but what is proof that one has been in India for 182 days? Also, in this grand data base of a 100 crore people, how many people have been enrolled after their residence in India was verified? Will anyone really care what the law says? After all, structures of authority and control are all within the UIDAI and the central government; the people are merely subjects of the state who may be bullied at will.

This continuity between governments in their disregard for the law is stunning.

Views expressed by the author are personal.

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  1. D
    Dddf
    Mar 17, 2016 at 3:56 pm
    Aadhar is the only good thing started by UPA which was made better and proper in implementation by NDA.
    Reply
    1. R
      Raje
      Mar 17, 2016 at 7:13 am
      What is she cribbing about? Even Nandan Nilekani said today, NDA Aadhar Bill is stronger and modified for better than congress one.... this writer can crib in name of privacy. But she forgets the in terms of national security, there can be no privacy....all nations allow to access database when national security is threatened. Seems like these intellectual people only want to stay intellectual for themselves, they do not want mango people or poor people to get better out of it.
      Reply
      1. K
        KVM
        Mar 17, 2016 at 8:47 am
        I am just amazed. In one hand people talk about corruption and benefits not reaching the right people properly and on the other hand any change in the means to rightly identify and quantify the benefits reaching the right people will have to criticised. For your information ma'am, we the people of India have voted this government to power and the government has ped this bill...that is how our democracy works, whether you like it or not. There is no need for a country wide referendum for every thing that any government does. Our country should put National security as its foremost concern.
        Reply
        1. V
          Venu
          Mar 17, 2016 at 7:46 am
          The act doesnot speak of the responsibility of authorities to issue cards with correct particulars, and also machinery to issued corrections within a week. While speaking about other things like privacy, this basic flaw has not been commented upon by anybody. This is due to the fact that the commentators has no basic knowledge of what is happening on the surface. Please bring this to the notice of the authorities by highlighting this in the medias .
          Reply
          1. R
            Raj
            Mar 17, 2016 at 8:41 am
            I do not agree with the Author or Indian Express Views on this. Direct Transfer is in favour of the people, seems that the author is only in favour of corrupt officials who eat the money and stops money to not to reach to the needy person.
            Reply
            1. M
              Meenu Agarwal
              Mar 17, 2016 at 6:26 am
              It is a big threat for the people who are working in defence D projects. All demographic information of all such people working on core projects can be taken by any set of people and these people can be targeted without much effort. It may be kept in mind that demographic information is not clified under sensitive information where data secrecy has to be maintained as per norms.
              Reply
              1. A
                Anurag Srivastava
                Mar 18, 2016 at 4:48 am
                The Government is going to save a lot, which was earlier being squandered by the immoral and corrupt. The e-Governance Department, with the entry of ADHAAR number on optional basis was able to save Rs.60/- in the very first year for the Ration Department. A woman who was taking Pension from five districts of the State was also caught. One Cl I officer of the State Government who was taking benefit under the BPL schemes was also caught. The country is going to save huge amount with the ping of this bill.
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                1. a
                  anwarbashasheik@yahoo
                  Mar 17, 2016 at 10:03 am
                  Indian Citizen have so many issue to resolve - Political always playing - Indian Citizen rise the issue every weekly basis and resolve issue within 28 days times and sign all party memeber. 1.Poverty 2. Black money 3. Corruption 4dian Party Candidate selection 5dian Make Clean city. 6.Traffic control system in city with expert suggestion 7.re structuring Law (and old cases distributed and close within 3 month ) 8.Quality of education 9.Quality Medical system 10.price control of commodity 11.Low cost houses , and city grater old building which not looks good destroy and reconstruct giving best loan scheme builder ,developer,owner
                  Reply
                  1. a
                    anwarbashasheik@yahoo
                    Mar 17, 2016 at 9:54 am
                    this party to party drama , Indian Government First list out the what are the Indian Citizen Requirement , then give all Indian party Opinion and comments (within 14 days) , then Indian sperm court take decision (within 14 days) which best for Indian Citizen considering Merits and Demerits and Indian Expert Opinion to implement and save money ,time and party discrimination - all party approval and disapproval with comments only accepted.
                    Reply
                    1. A
                      Ashok Sridharan
                      Mar 17, 2016 at 10:24 am
                      I agree with the technical aspects of the discussion, but the author would do well to provide an alternate solution. The manner in which the opposition has stonewalled any attempts at reform has left the government with no choice.
                      Reply
                      1. C
                        Common Voter
                        Mar 17, 2016 at 4:25 pm
                        So pappu lovers are worried that pappu got no credit out of it, and opposing it for the sake of opposing it. It was good that Lok Sabha threw the pappu suggestions in the dust bin and ped this bill as a money bill.
                        Reply
                        1. T
                          Tarun Durga
                          Mar 17, 2016 at 7:55 am
                          Does privacy takes precedence over national security. People want good governance less corruption food on plate and safe life. I agree privacy is important but is it more important that basic necessities of life. Please suggest solutions to make it better rather than saying it's all useless.
                          Reply
                          1. N
                            Nova
                            Mar 17, 2016 at 9:00 am
                            RSS strategy is behind Aadhar Bill; executed by remote control PM.
                            Reply
                            1. I
                              Ind
                              Mar 17, 2016 at 5:46 am
                              Big Wonder that How dumb this author, she have mentioned each information is pertaining to wrong direction. Big disgusting that these people are for the name sake they opposing the good work of Modi Govt. The actual fact that this kind bill would be oxygen of common and poor people.
                              Reply
                              1. B
                                Bal Kishan
                                Mar 17, 2016 at 3:50 pm
                                AAdhar Card has been attached with IT Return, Voter ID by organising special camps during last year. It will be beneficial in the long run .It was ped as financial bill as the govt is in minority in Rajya sabha . if govt feels comfortable its good
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                                1. K
                                  Kartikeya Singh
                                  Mar 17, 2016 at 8:36 am
                                  I'm impressed! The author is only interested in making the point that Aadhar has been pushed through willy nilly by the governments of this nation. Nowhere is the merit of this system being spoken about.... this is the biggest pitfall of our democracy. Anybody with a pen and half wit can criticize development. Go on....
                                  Reply
                                  1. D
                                    Dr.M.M.HAZARIKA PhD
                                    Mar 17, 2016 at 5:58 am
                                    The details asked for are available everywhere. Where is the breach Privacy? Since Independence; none is getting any benefits as announced by the Government from time to time to elevate poverty . The 'Thags' are more than half the potion of the Country. Such Security Numbers are available in USA too. If we take little of CARE; it can be leaked to none. All are hiding their wrong wealth so much so that nothing is moving within the GLOBE. All such elements must be caught.
                                    Reply
                                    1. C
                                      CRJ
                                      Mar 17, 2016 at 9:55 am
                                      Even if it is 'so be it'. The minority are against this as few of the multiple wife with one husband. If you have this card for e.g only one gas connection, etc. This is one way reducing potion
                                      Reply
                                      1. C
                                        CRJ
                                        Mar 17, 2016 at 6:07 am
                                        if your clean person without having black money and no links anti-national forces one should be afraid. The political and rich business cl are worried about this bill and that is reason on some pretext they do want this bill.
                                        Reply
                                        1. P
                                          Parth Garg
                                          Mar 17, 2016 at 8:12 am
                                          In a majoritarian rule you cannot expect the law to rule.
                                          Reply
                                          1. R
                                            Rajiv Pande
                                            Mar 17, 2016 at 11:07 am
                                            In India, some intellectuals make a big deal of freedom etc. They have made a habit of splitting hair. Some actions are for the overall good of the people and the benefits far outweigh any perceived problems.
                                            Reply
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