Your Money or Your Life?: Modi's Deceptive Enactment of India's ID Legislation
(2016) 140 Privacy Laws & Business International Report 18-20, April 2016
6 Pages Posted: 28 Jun 2016 Last revised: 7 Sep 2016
Date Written: April 1, 2016
India’s Modi government inherited from its Congress government predecessors a national ID system, the Aadhaar, which has enrolled up to 800 million of India’s 1.2 billion residents since 2009. Legislation to legitimise the system had been stalled in India’s lower house (the Lok Sabha) since 2010, partly because of privacy concerns of legislators. Modi’s government enthusiastically accepted this gift, promoting its expansion and defending it in the courts against constitutional claims that it infringed privacy.
However, the Supreme Court still presented a potential legal road-block, with a case concerning the Aadhaar’s constitutionality having been referred to a ‘constitution bench’ (to be appointed by the Chief Justice) for determination. Lack of a majority in the upper house (Rajya Sabha) presented a political obstacle to obtaining legislative legitimacy for the system, which still depended on a 2009 Executive decision for its imprimatur. This serial has had many episodes since 2009.
This article explains how the Aadhaar legislation has unexpectedly been enacted, the basic structure of the ID system it establishes, its potential private sector uses, the privacy vacuum within which it will operate, and how it is now much more dangerous as a result of this enactment. A concluding question is whether this Bill is what Indians have been led to expect for the last seven years, or whether they have been deceived?
Keywords: Aadhaar, ID, UID, India, privacy, data protection, surveillance
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