I welcome the Aadhaar judgment today by the Supreme Court as a petitioner who joined in the original Aadhaar petition in 2013. It reaffirms the steps that Narendra Modi government took to transform UPA Aadhaar into the current corruption-free Subsidy delivery platform – to ensure that crores of poor Indians who had to struggle with corrupt middle men to avail their Government benefits no longer have to do so.
The Narendra Modi Government took several steps to ensure that the thousands of crores spend by UPA without any legislation, debate or scrutiny was put to proper use despite many misgivings about it. The government ensured a proper legislation, debates in Parliament and outside and built in safeguards to ensure concern of abuse were addressed and it was integrated into the overall JDY Direct Benefit Transfer architecture. The National ID card project was first conceived by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee which UPA then named Aadhaar.
The judgment exposes the litany of lies from the Congress – itself the government that spent tens of thousands of crores with no debate or scrutiny or legislation on their Aadhaar. Corruption in government subsidies has been known for decades in this country. Except for Vajpayee, who mooted the idea of a National ID card in 2002, the Congress governments in the last seven decades did nothing about the rampant corruption in public spending. Aadhaar has its genesis in this vision of Vajpayee.
This judgment should reassure all citizens that Aadhaar has been put into place by this government to ensure that curse of corruption and leakages in use of public money is once in for all removed from our system.
Balance in rights of citizens is restored
The main concerns of rights of citizens and correcting the imbalance in Aadhaar Act vis-a-vis UIDAI has been corrected by Supreme Court and UIDAI will now evolve into a transparent accountable institution. It is clear that for the Modi government, the fight on corruption and middlemen is a matter of core belief and non-negotiable.
In the more important issue that I have argued about need for better safeguards to Citizen/Data principals, the SC has ruled that parts of the Aadhaar act has been struck down and needs to be amended. These strike downs correct the grave asymmetry that existed in the Act vis-a-vis the rights of citizens and Accountability and powers of UIDAI. The roles of private sector companies in use of Aadhaar, as I have argued, were inconsistent with act passed by Parliament. Ban on metadata storage, minimum data and only six months of data storage strengthen the citizens Right to Privacy.
Importantly the majority judgment has ruled that it is government’s and UIDAI’s obligation to ensure no Illegal immigrant gets an Aadhaar — a fundamental and perhaps intentional gap created during UPA where several thousands and lakhs of illegal immigrants got Aadhaar and used that in turn to get voter IDs and Passport as a grave national security risk.
Future of Digital India is being shaped
I am very pleased with the outcome as it is consistent with what I had predicted and have been fighting for following the SC judgment on privacy in which I was a petitioner. Along with Section 66 A, Privacy as Fundamental Right and now this (all three of which I was petitioner in Supreme Court) – these three cases mark the basic shaping of the future of a Digital India with solid clear legal rights for Indians – part of the NDA government’s focus on empowering Indians.
Now the stage is set for a discussion and dialogue around Data Protection Law and the recommendations of Justice Sri Krishna commission and the TRAI. I am confident that the government is very aware of the debate and concern of the issue of data privacy. Such a debate is welcome and necessary in our democracy.
UIDAI will become accountable
The way forward now is to support PM Narendra Modi’s fight on corruption by an end to political mudslinging and lies by Congress. The UIDAI becoming more circumspect, accountable and responsible in its conduct and relationship with citizens and to actively build back the trust deficit it has created thus far. Strengthening further the fight against corruption in public spending and a reasoned dialogue amongst all stakeholders for the future Data Protection law and mechanism.
The author is MP and one of the petitioners in the Aadhaar case