Aadhaar constitutionally valid, rules Supreme Court, adds conditions

039;We stand vindicated': Congress TMC applaud SC verdict on Aadhaar

Among other objectives, the project aims for a unique Aadhaar number, tied to an individual's iris scan and fingerprints, to help block theft and leakages in India's $23.6-billion-a-year food welfare programme.

The bench had on May 10 reserved the verdict on the matter after a marathon hearing that went on for 38 days, spanning four-and-half months.

A majority judgement of three judges, was, however, not convinced that Aadhaar violated the right to privacy.

Although the judgement is largely in favour of Aadhaar, it raises concerns about the misuse of Aadhaar, and Justice Sikri laid out the different ways in which Aadhaar can, and cannot be used.

The brainchild of the UPA government, the Aadhaar Bill was passed by the Narendra Modi government in 2016 in the Lok Sabha as a Money Bill.

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By striking down the use of Aadhaar by private entities, it's possible that the ecosystem around Aadhaar payments and so forth will also be affected, although more clarity is awaited on this.

Compelling people to enrol violated free and informed consent, senior lawyer Shyam Divan had argued in the top court during the hearings. "As far as I am concerned, the state can not take away my body", he said.

The SC struck down the provision that prevented individuals from filing cases under the Aadhaar Act. In a nutshell, while Aadhaar is constitutionally valid, it is not mandatory for all services.

Also, with the Privacy Bill not yet being enacted, as citizens we do not have the right to access to our data to know if it has been indeed been deleted.

One's Aadhaar or identification number had become increasingly necessary for common services, from carrying out bank transactions to applying for a passport to acquiring a SIM card for a mobile phone. The court has ruled that Aadhaar is safe, he said.

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Passing the judgement, the Supreme Court said that the Aadhaar data can not be stored for over six months.

"Minimal demographic and biometric data of citizens are collected by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) for Aadhaar enrolment".

In fact, that was the most relevant part of the judgement for most Indians - many of whom had expressed unwillingness to link their mobile phone connections to the scheme.

"It is better to be unique than to be best", he added.

Stating that Aadhaar empowers the marginalised sections of society and gave them an identity, the SC said Aadhaar authentication data can not be stored for more than six months.

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UIDAI was launched in 2009, and Aadhaar numbers were given from September 2010. Terming the verdict as "historic", Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley pointed that the concept of Aadhaar has been accepted after a judicial review. "In the case of the financial bank account I think it's handled very well", the soon-to-be-63-year-old billionaire had said.

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