Aadhaar Bill 2016, Hopes and Concerns
Basics of Aadhaar
Aadhaar is an ambitious project that seeks to provide unique identification numbers to each individual in a country, collecting demographic and biometric information in the process. Currently, UIDAI has issued over 98 crore Aadhaar numbers.
Need for Aadhaar: India must use technology in a transformational way to accelerate social and economic justice. It will help in expansion of opportunities for all at scale and speed.
What is the Aadhaar Bill?
Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016, has been passed by Parliament, to provide for efficient, transparent, and targeted delivery of subsidies, benefits and services.
It will enable the govt. to reset the subsidy regime and deliver state benefits directly to their intended beneficiaries, plugging leakages.
How Aadhar is linked with DBT?
India spends nearly Rs. 4 lakh crore on subsidies, in order to complement the political democracy with socio-economic democracy.
On January 1, 2013, the UPA govt launched the Direct Benefit Transfer scheme under which monetary benefits would be transferred directly to the beneficiaries through an Aadhaar-enabled platform.
The effort to channelize subsidies, benefits and services to through a 12-digit number or to say its biometric alternative can help plug the leakages in the subsidy framework and give a boost to the Jan Dhan Yojna, which remains closely aligned to this scheme.
Follow our story on Direct Benefits Transfer: The Big Reform.
Do read the Economic Survey chapter on JAM Trinity.
What are the concerns on Privacy front?
There are certain provisions in the Bill, that provide avenues for surveillance of citizens. A person’s Aadhaar number can become a standard data point in all business, banking and legal transactions. Our data systems are not secure and watertight. The people who maintain these systems are vulnerable to pressures and inducements.
- The issue of privacy vs. security is a hot subject around the world, evident in the current controversy in Apple Inc.’s refusal to break the encryption on an iPhone as demanded by FBI
- Sceptics argue that no other country, and certainly no democratic country, has ever held its own citizens hostage to such a powerful infrastructure of surveillance
- Govt. accepts right to privacy as a valuable right, but questions it as a fundamental right
- In 1954, a 8-judge bench of SC had ruled that right to privacy cannot be a fundamental right. But, some judgments post-1990 noted that right to privacy can be construed as fundamental right, subject to certain restrictions and circumstances
However, there are other concerns of exclusion, by denying the services to people who didn’t enroll for it or chose not to do it.
According to Nandan Nilekani, the Bill had incorporated several safeguards with regard to privacy as highlighted by the A.P. Shah Committee report, on privacy law.
There are other provisions in this Bill that seem to address the concern:
- The unique numbers will not be considered as proof of citizenship
- The Aadhar system ensures privacy through design, as it uses a federated architecture. In other words, as banking data is wholly inside the banking system, similarly, the biometric data is never shared by UIDAI
- The core bio-metric information cannot be shared with any person even with the consent of the Aadhaar card holder. Even, the general information cannot be unlawfully shared
- Only a Court of the District Judge or above has been given the power to order disclosure of information excluding core biometrics
- “National Security” is the only ground on which a Competent Authority can share this information. Every decision of the Competent Authority has to be reviewed by a Committee comprising of the Cabinet Secretary, the Law Secretary and the Secretary, Information Technology before it is given effect
What was Supreme Court’s stand on Aadhaar?
In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that Aadhaar could not be made mandatory to receive benefits. No one should be excluded from social welfare scheme, just because of a requirement of Aadhar.
In 2015, It also prohibited the sharing the Aadhaar information with any agency. The case was referred to a larger bench to decide the question whether Aadhaar infringed the right to privacy.
What is Aadhaar Bill versus Money Bill controversy?
According to experts, the Bill was not a money Bill under Article 110 of the Constitution because it did not “contain ONLY provisions” dealing with the matters enumerated in that Article. Various Constitutional experts have argued that the Speaker’s decision to certify it as a money Bill was also plainly wrong.
Do you want to know about Money Bill?
As per Article 110(1), a bill that contains only provisions dealing with the following qualifies as a money bill:
- The imposition, abolition, remission, alteration or regulation of any tax
- Regulation of borrowing or the giving of any guarantee by the govt of India, or undertaking financial obligation by the government
- The custody of the Consolidated Fund of India or the Contingency Fund of India, the payment of moneys into or withdrawal from them
- The appropriation of moneys out of the CFI
- Declaring any expenditure as a charged expenditure on the CFI <can you tell us the difference b/w charged expenditure and non charged expenditure? Also can you tell us one prominent constitution body whose expenditure is not charged? Answer in the comments.>
- The receipt of money on account of the CFI or the public account of India or the ambit of accounts of the Union or of a state <can you tell us the difference b/w consolidated fund of India and public accounts of India? Answer in the comments>
- Any matter incidental to the above issues
A money bill cannot be rejected by the Rajya Sabha, which can only suggest changes, the Lok Sabha is free to reject.
Speaker: Article 110(3) confirms finality on the speaker’s decision on the question of whether a bill is a money bill.
What were the amendments moved by Rajya Sabha?
- It wanted to restrict the use of Aadhaar numbers only for targeting of govt benefits or service and not for any other purpose
- It wanted to replace the term ‘national security’ with ‘public emergency and public safety’, arguing that the term ‘national security’ is very vague
- It wanted an Oversight Committee to review the Competent Authority’s decision, which should also comprise of either the CVC or the CAG
- It wanted to delete a section which says that if under any other law the use of Aadhaar number for establishing the identity of an individual is permitted, the same law is not being over-ruled
There is little doubt that India needs to streamline the way it delivers benefits, and to empower citizens with a basic identification document. But this cannot be done without ensuring the strictest protection of privacy.
Follow our story on Aadhaar Cards: The Identity Revolution.
Published with inputs from Pushpendra