There is now legitimate concern throughout the country about the undue importance being attached to the Aadhaar card. There is every reason to believe that with the sudden emergence of the Aadhaar card as the be all and end all of the citizens’ existence in India, the means of ensuring total conformity to what the government expects from its citizens and a means of completely stifling dissent is now in the hands of the administration. On Wednesday, a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court began hearing petitions challenging the constitutiol validity of Aadhaar. The honourable judges were told that the Aadhaar scheme ebles the government to stifle dissent, influence political decision-making, was reminiscent of totalitarian regimes and reduced people to servitude. Appearing for former Kartaka High Court judge K. Puttuswamy and some others, senior advocate Shyam Divan told the bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra that the Aadhaar scheme had several glitches and improbables since at least 6.23 crore people were excluded from enrolment after they had applied for duplicate cards. Advocate Divan said that many people applied for such duplicate cards either because of change of address or loss of the origil card. However, when they apply for duplicate cards, the Aadhaar authentification process fails to acknowledge them, thus denying them various benefits as the government has made it mandatory to link Aadhaar cards with bank accounts, mobile phones and other services. The petitioners had valid reasons to believe that if the Aadhaar Act and programme is allowed to operate unimpeded it will hollow out the Constitution, particularly the great rights and liberties that the Constitution assures to citizens. They were of the view that a people’s Constitution would thereby get transformed into a State Constitution. “The government has rolled out a little-understood programme that seeks to tether every resident of India to an electronic leash. This leash is connected to a central database that is designed to track transactions across the life of the citizen. This record will eble the State to profile citizens, track their movements, assess their habits and silently influence their behaviour,” Divan added. He was of the view that “over time, the profiling ebles the State to stifle dissent and influence political decision-making. As the Aadhaar platform extends to private corporations, the degree of tracking and extent of profiling will exponentially increase. Several State governments have started using the Aadhaar platform to build profiles of residents that is reminiscent of totalitarian regimes.” Justice Chandrachud wanted to know whether the State could not implement the Aaadhaar programme in public interest. Divan’s reply was: “Aadhaar destroys the identity of an individual and it has made the country a surveillance State which is not permissible under the Constitution. The Aadhar database compromises on tiol security as there is no free consent in permitting biometric information, and diminishes the rights of the citizens.” Divan also referred to the recent judgement of a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court that recognized the right to privacy as a fundamental right. He complained that the government issues an Aadhaar number and then requires it to be embedded across service providers. Unless the number is seeded in the database of the service provider, the citizen is denied access to “these essential facilities,” Divan said.
In other words, what confronts us now is that the mere lack of a card or an Aadhaar number can completely negate the existence of a person. We can now have a situation where a citizen who is physically alive can become ‘officially’ dead because he lacks an Aadhaar card or an Aadhaar number. In a word, this is the kind of synthetic death brought about by the administration. We can very well land ourselves in a situation where a citizen can be officially dead or alive depending on the whims of an official. Did we free ourselves of our foreign rulers to push ourselves to a situation where we can be subject to a kind of civil death even when we are really alive? The tion has to depend on the Supreme Court to spare us from the bizarre situation of having to suffer a ‘civil’ death even when we are physically alive.