Even as the Supreme Court is seized of a bunch of petitions challenging the validity of the Aadhaar card, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has rushed to the SC against an order of the Bombay High Court that seeks to examine if its biometric database can be used in criminal investigation.
The latest controversy involving a flagship programme of the UPA government has its roots in the order of a Goa court asking the UIDAI to give the CBI biometrics of all residents enrolled with Aadhaar in the state to help solve the gangrape of a seven-year-old girl as the database — which includes recording of fingerprints, iris and facial images of applicants — is supposed to be devoid of duplication and tamper-proof.
The girl was raped in a school in Goa’s Vasco city 14 months back and the case is yet to be cracked. However, there were some chance fingerprints recovered from the scene of crime and the magistrate thought UIDAI could match these fingerprints with its database to help ascertain the identities of the assailants.
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Aggrieved by this order, the UIDAI moved Bombay High Court and claimed validation of the magistrate’s order will open the floodgates of such directives by other courts as well other authorities.
The high court noted that the UIDAI has agreed to test the competence of its database in comparing the chance fingerprints with its biometric record. The high court also asked the director general of the Central Forensic Science Laboratory to examine the technological capabilities of the UIDAI database.
Terming the high court’s order as “erroneous,” the UIDAI has petitioned the Supreme Court that the UIDAI system has been developed “for civilian use and for non-forensic purposes”.
Even as the UIDAI describes its biometric technology as one of the best in the world, it pointed out that there was a 0.057 per cent occurrence of false identification. Therefore, the the implications of the False Positive Identification Rate of 0.057 per cent when applied in the UIDAI database of 60 crore residents, will imply false matches of lakh of residents, according the authority.
“This means any such random search, which was now being demanded by the Respondent No.1 (CBI), even if implemented in the current system, would put lakhs of innocent people under the scanner,” said its petition, besides saying such a precedent could lead to a plethora of similar requests for assistance in criminal investigation.
The UIDAI also asserted that sharing information with other agencies would violate a person’s right to privacy since the current data-sharing policy and guidelines clearly provides that biometric data cannot be shared without the consent of the resident.
“Building a system that can search using latent fingerprints, quite like criminal database searches, is not within the constitutional and legal mandate and scope of UIDAI and fundamentally against the core reason residents have provided their data voluntarily to UIDAI,” it maintained.
The UIDAI added that the questions relating to privacy was also a subject matter of the bunch of PILs currently being adjudicated by the SC and hence no order could be passed to share information of the applicants in the meantime.
The SC is hearing a bunch of petitions that have challenged the validity of the Aadhaar card in absence of a pertinent legislation and has also disputed its compulsory nature. By an interim last September, the apex court restricted all authorities from denying a benefit or service to any citizen of India for want of the Aadhaar card.
The SC will hear the UIDAI petition on March 24.