The Supreme Court on Wednesday denied directing the mandatory linking of Aadhaar and SIM cards, and said the government was using an order passed by it on February 6 last year as a “tool” to seed Aadhaar with SIM cards.
Justice D Y Chandrachud, one of the five judges on the Constitution Bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, after perusing the February 6 order in the Lok Niti Foundation case, said the court had only asked the government to tighten the verification process of mobile phone users through Aadhaar linkage, citing national security.
“In fact, there was no such direction from the Supreme Court, but you took it and used it as tool to make Aadhaar mandatory for mobile users,” said the Bench, which included Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, and Ashok Bhushan.
Senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), said seeding was done in pursuance of a TRAI recommendation. It was “legitimate state interest”, with regard to national security, to ensure that it is the applicant, and no one else, who was using the mobile SIM.
Dwivedi submitted that the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) notification had mooted the re-verification of mobile numbers by using e-KYC process. Besides, the Telegraph Act gave “exclusive power to the Central government to decide licence conditions” of the service providers.
But Justice Chandrachud said the licence agreements were between the government and telcos. The court asked how the DoT could “impose the condition on service recipients for seeding Aadhaar with mobile phones”,
The Aadhaar scheme has been criticised for aggregation of meta data, while every body ignores the fact that banks and telecom companies have a much “bigger data base.”
“Vodafone has a much bigger data base of information even without Aadhaar. The Aadhaar data is immaterial for them,” Dwivedi argued. “Every transaction using cards, what I purchased by using cards, where and when, is with the bank. Aadhaar does not do that,” he submitted.
The lawyer referred to the control being enjoyed by the UIDAI over entities, private and government, which seek Aadhaar authentication for providing services and benefits to citizens. Dwivedi said data was encrypted and held offline and above all, the Aadhaar scheme was safer than smart cards as there was no chance of data breach.
( This article was first published in www.thehindu.com)
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