Refers to Supreme Court’s order as “travesty”, a farce, sham, charade, caricature, parody & mockery
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
EPW editorial underlines colossal failure of Supreme Court in protecting citizens from biometric aadhaar surveillance
Refers to Supreme Court’s order as “travesty”, a farce, sham, charade, caricature, parody & mockery
25th august, 2015:
Referring to Hon’ble Supreme Court’s interim order dated 11th August, 2015 in the matter of 12 digit biometric unique identity (UID)/aadhaar number as “travesty”, Economic and Political Weekly (EPW), one of the most globally reputed academic journals published since 1949 has written a pithy and noteworthy editorial in its recent issue saying, "The biggest failing of the Court’s interim order however is its own unenforceability. The only recourse that a citizen has against a government agency violating the Supreme Court’s order is to approach the Supreme Court itself in Delhi with a contempt petition, and hope for relief. This is simply out of the question for all but a negligible proportion of the country’s population. The likely effect will be that the use of the Aadhaar number, uncontrolled by law and carried on with reckless disregard for privacy concerns, will be expanded slowly but surely in defiance of the Court’s order."
Its editorial titled “A Legal Vacuum” is available at http://www.epw.in/editorials/legal-vacuum.html
Coincidentally, this order ahead of Prime Minister’s Independence Day speech wherein he claimed, “we have introduced LPG subsidy with direct benefit scheme in which jan dhan yojna and aadhar scheme was used and black marketing, intermediators etc were chucked out of the system. And thus approx 15,000 cr money was saved through this scheme” appears to be pregnant with far reaching implications for judiciary, executive, legislature and citizens.
The EPW editorial unequivocally states, “The Supreme Court has failed to protect citizens from government illegality on Aadhaar.”
Notably, Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), which appeared before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance that examined the aadhaar project and the National Identification Authority of India Bill had drawn the attention of the central government towards the manifesto titled “2083: A European Declaration of Independence” that was brought out by the Norwegian gunman and neo-Crusader, Anders Behring Breivik who carried out the heinous attacks on his fellow citizens and his repeated reference to "identification".
CFCL pointed out that this manifesto refers to the word "identity" over 100 times, "unique" over 40 times and "identification" over 10 times. There is reference to "state-issued identity cards", "converts’ identity cards", "identification card", "fingerprints", "DNA" etc. The "unique identity" manifesto of 1500 pages prepared for Europe is attached. The words in this manifesto give a sense of déjà vu.
Breivik’s obsession with “identification” echoes the obsession of the promoters of 12 digit biometric unique identity (UID)/aadhaar number.
All the residents and citizens of India are being made subordinate to prisoner’s status by the ongoing collection of their “biometric information” that includes finger prints, iris scan (voice print and DNA in near future) for permanent storage in a Centralized Identities Data Repository (CIDR). This is being done admittedly ‘as per an approved strategy” not disclosed to the legislatures and citizens without any legal mandate.
It is germane to recollect the submission of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in this regard on the National Identification Authority of India (NIAI) Bill, 2010 introduced in an effort to legalise the illegal activities of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI). In a report titled “NHRC’s views on the NIAI Bill, 2010” in the Human Rights Newsletter (Vol. 18 No.8, August 2011) reveals that UID/aadhaar number has dangerous ramifications is quite relevant in this regard. NHRC’s view was presented to the Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on Finance. The PSC submitted its report to the Parliament trashing the Bill and the UID/aadhaar number and related projects.
While such initiatives are underway, echoing NHRC’s view on “need for protection of information” and “the possibility of tampering with stored biometric information” in paragraph 5 (page no. 7 of the NHRC newsletter) and “disclosure of information in the interest of national security” mentioned in paragraph 9 (page no.8 of the newsletter), the Central Government’s Draft Discussion Paper on Privacy Bill admits, “There is no data protection statute in the country.”
This poses a threat to the identity of citizens and the idea of residents of the state as private persons will be forever abandoned.
NHRC’s observation before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance that UID/aadhaar Number underlined that it will lead to discrimination due to it’s distinction between residents and citizens in the name of “delivery of various benefits and services” and “weaker sections of society”.
As per Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920, biometric measurements like fingerprints of prisoners are taken with the permission of Magistrate and these records of the prisoners are destroyed on acquittal. But in the case of UID/aadhhar and NPR the same is going to stored forever without any legal mandate.
UID)/aadhaar number initiative is treating all residents and citizens of India worse than prisoners. The Identification of Prisoners Act provides that “Every person who has been, (a) convicted of any offence punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a term of one year or upwards, or of any offence which would render him liable to enhanced punishment on a subsequent conviction, or (b) ordered to give security for his good behaviour under Section 118 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, shall, if so required, allow his measurements and photograph to be taken by a Police Officer in the prescribed manner.”
It further provides that “Any person who has been arrested in connection with an offence punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a term of one year or upwards shall, if so required by a police officer, allow his measurements to be taken in the prescribed manner.” As per Section 5 of the Act, “If a Magistrate is satisfied that, for the purposes of any investigation or proceeding under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898, it is expedient to direct any person to allow his measurements or photograph to be taken, he may make an order to the effect, and in that case the person to whom the order relates shall be produced or shall attend at the time and place specified in the order and shall allow his measurements or photograph to be taken, as the case may be, by a police officer:”
As per Section 7 of Identification of Prisoners Act, “Where any person who, not having been previously convicted of an offence punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a term of one year or upwards, has had his measurements taken or has been photographed in accordance with the provisions of this Act is released without trial or discharged or acquitted by any court, all measurements and all photographs (both negatives and copies) so taken shall, unless the court or (in a case where such person is released without trial) the District Magistrate or Sub-divisional Officer for reasons to be recorded in writing otherwise directs, be destroyed or made over to him.” In the case of UID-Aadhaar/NPR the data will be stored forever.
In fact, the treatment being given to citizens and residents of India is akin to treatment proposed for tigers and animals who are going to be assigned a unique identification (UID) number to each tiger captured through camera traps by National Tiger Conservation Authority.
It is relevant to recall NHRC’s notice dated 7th February, 2011 to Secretary, Union Ministry of External Affairs in the case of radio collars on Indian students in USA was also case of how NHRC objected to biometric identification of Indian students by clamping of radio collars on the ankles in the Tri-Valley University.
In a statement on the matter of Tri-Valley University scam released to media dated 12th February, Union External Affairs Minister, Government of India said, “You will be happy to know that radio tagging has been removed from some students and other cases are being actively pursued.” It reveals that Government of India through its Embassy in Washington and Consulates in America has been working closely with the US Department of Homeland Security and the State Department to get “fair and humanitarian outcome” for the students who were tagged with radio collars.
Notably, NHRC received a communication from the Foreign Secretary on the issue saying, “We have also strongly protested the radio collars as unacceptable, which should be removed immediately.” Such biometric identification of Indian citizens even through aadhaar is unacceptable indeed.
The fear of an emerging Orwellian situation where a Big Brother keeps a watch on everybody as George Orwell prophesied in his book 1984 that taught citizens that an all-knowing government is a terrifying situation. Structurally, an all-knowing government cannot be a limited government as envisaged by the Constitution of India.
It must be noted that Supreme Court of Republic of the Philippines on 23rd July, 1998 rejected the National ID program initiated by President Fidel V. Ramos on 12th December, 1996 through “Adoption of a National Computerized Identification Reference System” in its 60 page judgment on two important constitutional grounds, viz: one, it is a usurpation of the power of Congress to legislate, and two, it impermissibly intrudes on our citizenry’s protected zone of privacy.
In a significant development, the unanimous decision of 17 judges the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) about violation of the right to privacy and family life by biometric profile retention in criminal justice databanks, found that the “blanket and indiscriminate nature” of the power of retention of the fingerprints, cellular samples, and DNA profiles of persons suspected but not convicted of offenses, failed to strike a fair balance between competing public and private interests and ruled that the United Kingdom had “overstepped any acceptable margin of appreciation” in this regard. This decision is relevant for biometric UID/aadhaar, proposed Human DNA Profiling Bill, 2015 and voice print through Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) being planted in vehicles and libraries. The decision of the ECHR’s decision about violation of the right to privacy and family life by DNA profile retention in criminal justice databanks is quite relevant in India. The case in ECHR was heard publicly on 27th February, 2008, and the unanimous decision was delivered on 4th December, 2008.
Government has chosen not to respond to concerns and questions about the illegality and illegitimacy of aadhaar number.
Following twelve questions reveal why civil liberties and human rights movements are against aadhaar related projects and aadhaar like projects across the world:
1. Why do Indians we need Unique Identification (UID)-Aadhaar Number as a 16th identity proof which, in fact is an identifier and not an identity proof?
2. Doesn’t linking of LPG subsidy with direct benefit scheme, jan dhan yojna with aadhar made it “mandatory” contrary to its continued claim in aadhaar enrolment form that it is “voluntary” tantamount to breach of trust?
3. Why present and future Indian citizens should be allowed profiled based on biometric data? Are citizens worse than prisoners? The indiscriminate collection of biometrics of prisoners is not allowed as per Identification of Prisoners Act.
4. Why have countries like UK, Australia, France, the Philippines and Europe has rejected UID/aadhaar like projects? These countries have rejected identity projects that closely resemble the UID project because of its implications of civil liberty, the prohibitive cost, the untested technology and because it will make the people subservient to the state. What is the reason for thinking that Indian citizens can bear these risks and costs?
5. How can UIDAI and UID/aadhaar project be deemed legal and legitimate if it has been disapproved as violation of the prerogative of the Parliament by Parliamentary Committee on Finance and the Hon’ble Supreme Court has found merit in objections aadhaar. The Parliamentary Committee denounced the UID/Aadhaar project as ‘unethical and violative of Parliament’s prerogatives’ and as akin to an ordinance when the Parliament is in session.’ The government has not come up with a revised law, and there is in fact no law that, today, governs the project. Isn’t the protection of the citizen by law important?
6. Who will be held accountable for the ongoing violation of citizen’s privacy and for robbery of their personal sensitive data? The UID/aadhaar project poses a threat to the privacy rights of citizens. Yet, the project is steaming ahead without any law on privacy in place, and is believed to be breaching many privacy principles.
7. If violation of confidentiality promised in the Section 15 of Census Act is done with impunity, how can census like projects like UID/aadhaar exercise be trusted?
8. What is the guarantee that whosoever controls Centralized Database of Indians will not become autocrat like Hosni Mubarak and Asif Ali Zardari who handed over their citizens’ database to US Government?
9. What is the guarantee that Centralized Database of Indians will not be stolen as has happened in the case of Greece?
10. Isn’t the entire UID/aadhaar related exercise meant to provide market for biometric and surveillance technology companies and World Bank’s partners like International Business Machines (IBM), Gemalto, Intel, Safran Group, Microsoft, and Pfizer, France and South Korea? There is an extraordinary dependence on corporations, many of them companies with close links with foreign intelligence agencies. How are the implications of this factor being dealt with?
11. Isn’t linking of UID/aadhaar with land titles, National Intelligence Grid, etc an assault to rights of citizens? The ubiquity that the UIDAI is trying to get for the UID/aadhaar — where it will be linked with the set ups like the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS), the NATGRID– where are the protections for the citizen from an invasive state?
12. Who will guarantee that the centralized database of UID/aadhaar will not be used for holocaust, genocide, communal and ethnic riots, targeting of minorities of all ilk and political dissidents of all shades?
13. Among many questions that have emerged, one is: How many MPs, MLAs, Cabinet Ministers, judges, officials of security establishment chosen to get themselves biometrically profiled under illegal and illegitimate aadhaar scheme
14. Why is biometric technology being treated as neutral as if it has no politics, or no implications for civil liberties, when it is known that it most certainly does?
15. Will aadhar architecture based GSTN safeguard Indian State’s sovereign function of tax collection?
It is apparent that the structural basis is being laid out for future authoritarianism through despotic projects at the behest of the ungovernable and unregulated foreign biometric and surveillance technology companies. The collection of biometric data supports the ideology of biological determinism with its implicit and explicit faith in the biometric technologies. There are hitherto unacknowledged dangers of trusting such technological advances for determining social policies.
The unfolding of an automatic identification regime is being facilitated through aadhaar in the face of corporate media unquestionably promoting ungovernable and unregulated identification and surveillance technology companies.
While providing for a dignified treatment of the citizens of India, Section 15 of the Census Act establishes that “Records of census not open to inspection nor admissible in evidence”. It reads: No person shall have a right to inspect any book, register or record made by a census-officer in the discharge of his duty as such, or any schedule delivered under section 10 and notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, no entry in any such book, register, record or schedule shall be admissible as evidence in any civil proceeding whatsoever or in any criminal proceeding other than a prosecution under this Act or any other law for any act or omission which constitutes an offence under this Act.”
Demolishing this dignity of the citizens, the Union Home Ministry is dehumanizing citizens by according them a status inferior to that of prisoners by facilitating merger of aadhaar with National Population Register, Census and NATGRID.
The creation of Centralized Identities Data Register (CIDR) of UID creates a bullying Database and Surveillance State through its ‘black box’.There is compelling logic for citizens to safeguard their civil liberties and human rights from such illegitimate advances of a bullying State. It has been established that UID/aadhaar does not have any basis contrary to its name, aadhaar which means foundation or base; it is legally niraadhaar (baseless).
It is germane to note that in the US, there was a UID like project called radio frequency identification (RFID) project which is being opposed by the citizen groups there. The technology, RFID, is rapidly moving into the real world through a wide variety of applications: Washington state driver’s licenses, U.S. passports, clothing, payment cards, car keys and more. Their objective is to create a future world where RFID is everywhere and figure out problems. RFID has been used primarily to track goods in supply chains, and the RFID Ecosystem works as a kind of human warehouse. The system can show when people leave the office, when they return, how often they take breaks, where they go and who’s meeting with whom. The latest RFID tags contain a 96-bit code meant to uniquely identify an object or person. The RFID is an invisible tag. US Department of Homeland Security required states to use an RFID chip that is readable from a distance to be compatible with its REAL ID initiative. It has failed to take off because of opposition of US States and citizens.
There is a lesson in this for State Governments and citizens. Indian Citizens need to vigilant against Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Systems as well. It is noteworthy that there was protest against RFID during the UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) between the 16th to 18 November 2005 by the founder of the free software movement, Richard Stallman who protested the use of RFID security cards.
This makes the objective of unified Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) technology for National Highways in India recommended by UIDAI Chairman headed Committee suspect. The 28 page report of the Committee refers to RFID, saying, “RFID tags are used for the purpose of identification and tracking using radio waves.” After examining these and several other technologies, UIDAI Chairman headed Committee recommended passive RFID tags although there is only one microchip manufacturer for this kind of application stating that “It is extremely simple to use and administer, requiring no actions on the part of the user (the sticker itself can be stuck on the vehicle by the auto vendor or the manufacturer).
It is noteworthy that the US Military’s huge supplies and equipment around the world was tracked using IBM punch cards during World War II, now radio frequency identification (RFID) tags are used to do the same. RFID tags work like “wireless bar codes” which perform the task of recording, tracking, and managing.
It is noteworthy that State Bank of Travancore (SBT) has the entered into an agreement with the Kudumbashree Mission to facilitate the extension of its financial services to villages in Kerala. The SBT is to issue smart cards with RFID facility to the customers in villages to act as yet another Identity Card.
Notably, RFID technology helps keep track of supplies and equipment to the battlefield at the right time and place and to secure supplies in the military operations of US Department of Defense’s (DoD) and its troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The US Navy’s combat casualty care unit uses RFID technology to track combat casualties in Iraq through RFID chips sewn into the wristbands of naval personnel. The US Department of Defense announced the establishment of a Radio Frequency Identification Policy (RFID) on October 23, 2003.
Similar RFID stickers were detected in the office of Union Finance Minister, which was widely reported in the media. It was reported (June 21, 2011, Indian Express) that on September 7, 2010, the then Union Finance Minister wrote to Prime Minister asking him to order a ‘secret inquiry’ into what he called a “serious breach of security” in his office: the presence of “planted adhesives” in 16 key locations as a possible surveillance act. These locations included the office of the Finance Minister himself, the office of his then Advisor, the office of his Private Secretary and two conference rooms used by the Finance Minister, including the main conference hall on the ground floor of the heavily guarded North Block. This got revealed through counter-surveillance operation of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) that the adhesives were “planted” at critical places in the Finance Ministry which on closer examination showed grooves on the surface which indicate some “plantable adhesive substances” could have been pasted. The proposed RFID tags appear to be similar to the “plantable adhesive substances” as stickers being proposed for vehicles as part of implementation of ETC technology. Similar incident was reported with regard to the office of the Defence Minister as well.
These developments make a book SpyChips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track Your Every Move with RFID by Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre quite relevant. The authors forewarn us of how we are being made to “imagine a world of no privacy. Where your every purchase is monitored and recorded in a database and your every belonging is numbered. Where someone many states away or perhaps in another country has a record of everything you have ever bought. What’s more, they can be tracked and monitored remotely”. The 270 page book has been published by Thomas Nelson Inc in 2005. It has been contended that RFID will impact our civilization in a deeper way than printing press, industrial revolution, light bulb, Internet and personal computers. The introduction of RFID marks the beginning of a world where everything and every place gets imbedded with RFID or spying micro chips.
It is apparent that RFID and UID/aadhaar projects are going to do almost exactly the same thing which the predecessors of Adolf Hitler did, else how is it that Germany always had the lists of Jewish names even prior to the arrival of the Nazis? The Nazis got these lists with the help of IBM which was in the ‘census’ business that included racial census that entailed not only count the Jews but also identifying them. At the US Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, there is an exhibit of an IBM Hollerith D-11 card sorting machine that was responsible for organising the census of 1933 that first identified the Jews.
The history of RFID can be traced to 1945 when Léon Theremin invented an espionage tool as a covert listening device which retransmitted radio waves with audio information. In the recent times, the largest deployment of active RFID has been done by the US Department of Defense. In 2009 researchers at Bristol University successfully glued RFID micro-transponders to live ants in order to study their behavior. RFID tags for animals represent one of the oldest uses of RFID technology.
RFID tags, part of biometric data is world-readable. It poses a risk to both personal location, privacy, national and military security of the country. India’s corporate media seems quite indulgent towards the emergence of a technology-based social control regime due to “Paid News” phenomena, it is up to you and the legislature to bring them under control by revealing the true nature of biometric data based RFID and related identification exercises like UID and NPR
While UIDAI has been informing the residents, citizens, concerned government departments and the media that the UID/aadhaar number scheme is voluntary since January 2009, the ‘Legal Framework For Mandatory Electronic Delivery of Services’ of Union Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, refers to “UIDAI – UID based authentication for services” as an enabler, thus making it compulsory.
The linking of UID/aadhaar with essential services like LPG implies that the right to have rights is being made dependent on biometric data based UID/aadhaar.
The Report of the UIDAI Chairman headed Technology Advisory Group (TAGUP) for Unique Projects dated January 31, 2011 presented to Union Ministry of Finance recommended setting up of National Information Utilities (NIU). It proposes NIUs as “private companies with a public purpose:profit-making, but not profit maximizing.” This appears to be an exercise in linguistic corruption.
Notably, Goods and Service Tax Network (GSTN) is a NIU, a Section 25 (not for profit), non-Government, private limited company with Registered Office in Room No. 255, North Block, New Delhi and Corporate Office in 223-229, The Janpath Hotel, New Delhi. . It was incorporated on 28th March, 2013. The shareholders of GSTN include ICICI Bank Ltd, HDFC Ltd, HDFC Bank Ltd and NSE Strategic Investment Corporation Ltd and “Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers”. Admittedly, the Company has been set up primarily to provide IT infrastructure and services to the Central and State Governments, tax payers and other stakeholders for implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), a single indirect tax to be levied concurrently on goods and services across India replacing most of the Central and State indirect taxes such as Value added Tax (VAT), Excise Duty, Service Tax, Central Sales Tax, Additional Customs Duty and Special Additional Duty of Customs. GST will be levied at every stage of the production and distribution chains by giving the benefit of Input Tax Credit (ITC) of the tax remitted at previous stages.
Its dubious significance can be understood from the CONFIDENTIAL INTERNAL report of T V Mohandas Pai headed Driving Information Systems for Holistic Tax Initiatives (DRISHTI) High Powered Committee dated 13thOctober, 2014 which states, “The IT infrastructure is a part of Tax collection sovereign function and should at all times be up to date and current.” The critical question is why this “Tax collection sovereign function” is being transferred to a private company like GSTN. Notably, this report has been removed from CBEC’s website for some reason.
In an important development the 119 page long Report of Parliamentary Committee ((Select Committee on the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty Second Amendment) Bill, 2014)) observed and recommended, "It noted that Non Government shareholding of GSTN is dominated by private banks. This is not desirable because of two reasons. Firstly, public sector banks have more than 70% share in total credit lending in the country. Secondly, GSTN’s work is of strategic importance to the country and the firm would be a repository of a lot of sensitive data on business entities across the country. In light of above, the Committee strongly recommends that Government may take immediate steps to ensure Non Government financial institution shareholding be limited to public sector banks or public sector financial institutions.” The report on the Bill was presented to the Rajya Sabha on 22nd July, 2015.
CFCL has been campaigning against GSTN since its inception and has been writing to government pointing out its dangers for State’s sovereign functions. The Bill in question aims to amend Constitution of India by inserting new Articles-246 A, 269A and 279 A with respect to special provision to Goods and Services Tax, levy and collection of Goods and Services Tax in course of inter-state trade or commerce and Goods and Services Tax council, respectively. Towards that end the Bill purports to amend Articles 248, 249, 250, 268, 269, 270, 271, 286, 366 and 368 of Constitution of India and amendment of the Sixth and the Seventh schedule of the Constitution and seeks to repeal Article 268A of the Constitution. The bill is pending in the Parliament.
Parliamentary Committee noted that “HDFC Bank constitute 30% of the total shareholding of the company. No public sector bank is a stakeholder in the company” although bulk of tax collection is undertaken by public sector banks. It also observed, “GSTN shall play a crucial role in implementation of GST as it shall provide the IT infrastructure for implementation of GST.”
This parliamentary report along with CBEC’s confidential report exposes the dangerous designs of the recommendations of the UIDAI Chairman headed TAGUP. The ulterior motive behind such machinations is aimed at taking over the sovereign functions of the State.
Notably, this TAGUP report refers to UIDAI Strategy Overview document published by UIDAI and mentions that “The recent acceptance of Aadhaar (UID Number) for satisfying proof of identity and address for all telecom connections by Department of Telecommunications will also ensure greater telecom inclusion”. It also refers to Biometric data standards and how “the UIDAI published standards for the collection and storage of biometric data in the Report on Biometrics Design Standards for UID Applications, under the chairmanship of Dr. Gairola.”
It must be noted that the uncertainties about biometrics in relation to a large a population as 1.2 billion remain. According to this very Report of the Biometrics Committee of the UIDAI, so far, the maximum number covered has been 50 million people. In fact, even this Committee of UIDAI looked unsure of it in the final analysis, stating: “First, retaining efficacy while scaling the database size from fifty million to a billion has not been adequately analysed. Second, fingerprint quality, the most important variable for determining de-duplication accuracy, has not been studied in depth in the Indian context.” Admittedly, infallibility and uniqueness of biometric data is a postulate at best. Global experience points out that biometric data is inherently fallible.
UID/aadhhar must be looked at along with other initiatives which will end up undertaking surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting of Indian residents and citizens on basis of caste, religion, political opinion and regional bias. UIDAI and related agencies are attempting to convert a resident into a number, Indian population into a market and then citizens into subjects.
Not surprisingly a reputed journal like EPW was compelled to refrain from mining words and call spade a spade in its editorial in keeping with the highest standards of academic discipline. This editorial on gross dereliction of judicial duty and judicial indiscipline by the custodians of the Constitution of India also underscores the deafening silence of the parliamentarians, legal luminaries and academia. Judiciary has failed to safeguard “we the people”. It has failed to secure the rights of present and future generations. It has let down the stature of Indian judiciary amidst the comity of nations.
The editorial of EPW captures the moment of unpardonable dereliction of duty by the custodian of the constitution. it is relevant to explore how many judicial officers and their family members allowed themselves to become subjects of surveillance through illegitimate and illegal biometric aadhaar number for the benefit of foreign companies like Accenture, Safran Group, Ernst & Young in India's supreme national interest who wish to admittedly keep their data only for seven years! If transferring national assets like citizens' biometric data to foreign countries is not TREASON, what else is?
It is germane to recall what late Roger Needham, a British computer scientist aptly said, “if you think IT (Information Technology) is the solution to your problem, then you don’t understand IT, and you don’t understand your problem either.” In their ultimate naivety, some key decision-makers in the government seem to be either convinced or "dazzled by the myth of the perfectibility of computers."
These issues directly linked to Right to Life merited the attention of the Hon’ble Court in the supreme interest of human rights of present and future generation of citizens. This necessitated an order recommending stoppage of further implementation of the biometric data based initiatives by the Central and State Governments and seeking destruction of already collected biometric data of Indian residents and citizens but the interim order turned out to be quite disappointing.
For Details: Gopal Krishna, Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties (CFCL), Mb: 08227816731, 09818089660, Efirstname.lastname@example.org
P.S: Here is a challenge for all those who are not concerned about natural right to privacy and advocate for aadhaar, send your passwords to CFCL. Biometric data like finger print, Iris Scan, Voice Print, DNA etc are more sensitive assets than passwords.