The Central government and the Unique Identification Authority of India on Wednesday defended Aadhaar, saying that there were no instances of its duplication and cited the fiscal benefits of linking it with various subsidies, benefits and services.
Asserting that duplicate Aadhaar cards are “non-existent”, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, arguing for the government and the UIDAI, told the five judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra while there were a large number of duplicate PAN cards, there was none in Aadhaar.
Telling the constitution bench that the linking Aadhaar with various services and benefits was in larger public interest, he said that compared to other methods of identifications, Aadhaar was least invasive of people’s privacy.
Mehta said that linking Aadhaar with various services and benefits would help in additional revenue collection to the tune of Rs 30,000 crore and sought to brush aside the petitioners’ contention that it was based on assumption that by and large, people were evading taxes and involved in money laundering.
Telling the bench also comprising Justice A.K.Sikri, Justice A.M.Khanwilkar, Justice D.Y.Chandrachud and Justice Ashok Bhushan that linking of Aadhaar with PAN card and for other purposes does not stigmatise the people as tax evaders or money launderers, he cited the example of the frisking of travellers at the airport.
“Everyone is frisked although only one might be a threat. Aadhar does not intend to stigmatise the whole populace as tax evaders and money launderers,” he told the bench which took exception saying that the extent of invasion of privacy in two cases – concern for national security on account of terrorism and economic offices – have to be different with different proportionality.
On Tuesday, Chief Justice Misra, in the course of the hearing, had said that the provision of Aadhaar Act that seeks to validate the data collected from 2009 to 2016 when the statute was enacted was “badly drafted” and it could not be read to mean waiving of fundamental rights of the people.
Earlier, the constitution bench had said that Aadhaar was not a panacea for all ills in the system like corruption, tax evasion, money laundering, leakage of subsidies and terrorism, and wondered how far it can cast the net of Aadhaar.
The constitution bench is hearing a batch of petitions by former Karnataka High Court Judge K.S. Puttuswamy, Magsaysay awardee Shanta Sinha, feminist researcher Kalyani Sen Menon, social activist Aruna Roy, Nikhil De, Nachiket Udupa and others challenging the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar scheme on the touchstone of the fundamental right to privacy.
Hearing will continue on Thursday.