Aadhaar Act

Aadhaar Act: SC may have to take another call

The Aadhaar issue is far from settled despite Supreme Court ruling on its validity and necessity under the Constitutional norms on Wednesday.

The ruling Modi government would go at breakneck speed in firewalling the data protection so it could approach Supreme Court again on removing the ban on private companies from accessing the users’ data. The opposition Congress, through its protagonist P. Chidambaram, in all probability would challenge the Aadhaar Bill being introduced in SC as a Money Bill in order to bypass the Rajya Sabha.

On Wednesday, Supreme Court has cleared the Aadhaar Act but barred private companies, such as banks and telecoms, from accessing the users’ data as was enabled by Section 57 of the bill. Supreme Court had also ruled that decision of (Lok Sabha) Speaker to certify Aadhaar Bill as Money Bill is open to judicial review.

Supreme Court clamping down on Section 57 wouldn’t please the ruling NDA government. The Supreme Court ought to have asked for a stronger privacy and data protection measures rather than bar private companies from mining Aadhaar. All the world’s technology giants, be it Facebook or Google, Alibaba or Tencent, have been empowered by their governments to control global businesses. India’s only chance is with Aadhaar: after all it enabled a newcomer like Reliance Jio to build a 200-million users’ base for its telecom operations. India’s UPI, RuPay and Bhim platforms are today earning world’s respect only because of users’ Aadhaar being available to them. Supreme Court ruling makes Aadhaar cost-effective but not profit-enabled.

As for the Money Bill part of the Aadhaar ruling, Congress would be encouraged by the dissenting note of Justice Y. Chandrachud who declared it a Constitutional fraud and illegality. (If one could ask, what’s so Constitutionally upright about Collegium System where judges choose judges?). Chidambaram and his ilks are unlikely to let go the opportunity of Aadhaar as Money Bill being open to “judicial review.”

Readers must also remember the dichotomy of Congress/Opposition position vis-à-vis Aadhaar. It was alright for them—and the Lutyens’ Media—to allow Right To Information (RTI) where the privacy of a petitioner is compromised. The privacy and dignity of an individual doesn’t matter to them on RTI. But they have used it as a handle to obstruct the march of Aadhaar.

And if one could ask, what about the private data of millions which UPA collected without committing themselves to Aadhaar in pre-Modi era? Wasn’t it foul, fraud and illegal given that it hadn’t obtained a judicial consent?

The fact is that because of Aadhaar, no longer the beneficiary receives only 15 paisa of the Rs 1 allocated to him. The Modi government has already saved upwards of Rs 90,000 crores from leakages and frauds in the benefit schemes. As per a World Bank report, Aadhaar could save upwards of Rs 11 billion in exchequer’s outflow of funds to the really poor—and not fill the coffers of ghost and duplicate entities. Today, the dole-outs are auditable. Fake ration cards and MGNREGS job cards are no longer working, saving the tax-payers’ hard-earned money. If Chidambaram could explain, how could benefits be paid without identifying the beneficiary?

As for Justice Y. Chandrachud’s critique, just a mere suspicion of constitutional and legal impropriety is not enough to overturn or jeopardize countless schemes and billions invested in enabling technology. If other Judges had gone along with Justice Y. Chandrachud, it would have caused chaos and havoc, not to mention billions of taxpayers’ money going down the drain. Judiciary needs to uphold laws and Constitution but not when its’ at odds with the larger interest of poor and society. Laws are for the citizens; not the other way around.

 

MSM Fake News Monitor: Indian Express on Aadhaar

If you believe that under the preceding UPA government:

(a) lakhs of crores spent on subsidies and MGNREGA wages for the poor in this country were siphoned off;

(b) tens of thousands of fake PAN cards were in circulation;

(c) these fake identities helped the monster of drug-trafficking and terrorism;

(d) that Aadhaar’s non-implementation during UPA’s rule of 2009-2014—itself best known for scams—could have aided it;

Then the Fake News of the Indian Express on Thursday, “Aadhaar officials part of private firms that use Aadhar services for profit” is just for you.

Indian Express cites the example of three persons who were earlier part of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and now are with Khosla Labs who are offering Aadhaar-related services to clients such as Hero Motors, Samsung, Ola, Hinduja Leyland Finance among others.

The premise of this 1000-word Front Page diarrhea–which incidentally has more words than those spoken by the Prime Minister of this country on Indian economy—isn’t clear. But by inference it’s seen as a “clash of interest” and that these three gentlemen, by virtue of their position, could have influenced the decision-making of UIDAI in their favour.

(i) Now, how could there be a “clash of interest” if these persons have either left or are on a sabbatical from UIDAI till 2018?

(ii) How could these gentlemen influence the UIDAI decision when the Information and Technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has already stated that the section 19(5) of the Aadhaar Act 2016 reads: “If any member, who is a director of a company and who as such director, has any direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any manner coming up for consideration at a meeting of the authority, he shall, as soon as possible after relevant circumstances have come to his knowledge, disclose the nature of his interest at such meeting and such disclosure shall be recorded in the proceedings of the authority, and the member shall not take part in any deliberation or decision of the authority with respect to the matter.”

The clarification by one of these three gentlemen to Indian Express that the Khosla Labs “went through the due process of applying for a licence with the UIDAI like all applicants” still didn’t deter the newspaper from going ahead with the Fake News.

The linking of Aadhaar with PAN cards and with banks and Income Tax returns etc. has hugely upset the corrupt ecosystem of the past which thrived on sucking the country hollow of all its vitality. Now endangered because Modi’s government thrust on transparency, these louts are making a last-gasp stand to keep the gravy train rolling.  The presstitutes are a willing ally for reasons which get you no prize from me for guessing.

(Facebook has set out 10 tools to check Fake News. A few give-aways are headlines, source, evidence and photos. Indian Express on Thursday’s edition has been found out in peddling a Fake News).