India’s top court upholds biometric scheme Aaadhar, limits its use

India’s Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that the country’s biometric identity system called Aaadhar is constitutional and does not infringe on privacy as claimed by some 30 petitioners.

Over one billion people, who have enrolled in the world’s largest biometric ID scheme, heaved a sigh of relief as the court’s ruling also removed some hassles they faced in their everyday life.

Now they need not show the Aaadhar card with the 12-digit unique identity number for opening a bank account, getting a mobile phone connection, taking an important public examination or seeking school admission or scheme benefits for minors. They do not have to share its details with any private company to avail their services.

However, while making income tax payments, citizens have to link the Aaadhar card to the 10-digit Permanent Account Number (PAN) issued to all tax payers.

The top court instructed the government to bring out a robust data protection law urgently.

The top court ruled that Aaadhar empowers the marginalised by giving them dignity and certain privileges which outweigh privacy. Aaadhar gives them access to a range of social services.

India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said the court’s verdict is a big victory for the pro-poor Modi-led government.

BJP’s rival Congress party said the ruling is a slap on the face of the government as  the court has struck down a clause that allows private companies the right to ask for Aaadhar before offering their services.