What is wrong in 'one nation, one identity' through Aadhaar? SC asks West Bengal government

The SC bench said that theoretically every centralised database can be hacked, but this does not necessarily mean that it is vulnerable.

What is wrong in 'one nation, one identity' through Aadhaar? SC asks West Bengal government

NEW DELHI: While the West Bengal government has attacked the Central government's Aadhaar scheme challenging its constitutional validity, the Supreme Court questioned the state over what was wrong in having 'one nation, one identity' for all Indians. The apex court is hearing a clutch of pleas challenging the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar scheme and the enabling 2016 law.

During the hearing, the court questioned senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the West Bengal government, asking what he thought about the concept of 'one nation, one identity'. The SC bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said that theoretically every centralised database can be hacked, but this does not necessarily mean that it is vulnerable. "It is acknowledgment of the fact that you need to take extra care and safeguards should be there to protect it," Justice Chandrachud said.

However, Sibal said that in the digital world, there is no assurance that the data is protected. "I need to be assured that my data is protected but in a digital world, there can be no such assurance and once my property (biometric information) is lost then in the physical world you may retrieve it but in the virtual world you cannot. This is the future world we are heading into," he said.

The Mamata Banerjee government, which had on Tuesday challenged the Aadhaar scheme, told the court that Indianness has nothing to do with a particular kind of identity. "Yes, we all are citizens of this country and Indianness has nothing to do with this kind of identity," it told the bench.

Staunchly against the scheme, Sibal added: "We are proud Indians and are passionately Indians, but everything is wrong with Aadhaar. Indianness has nothing to do with identity. Let us not go into this debate as it is more political than legal. We are more than this Aadhaar. That's all." 

He also stated that it was a wrongly drafted law with respect to 'alternatives', because there was no scope of authentication of the identity of an individual except Aadhaar.

Giving an illustration, he said the United Kingdom, which initially started a biometric authentication mechanism, scrapped it because the system was vulnerable. "I am not saying that the State will misuse my Aadhaar information, but how does this Aadhaar make everyone vulnerable? This vulnerability is where the violation of my right comes in," he said.

Sibal argued that his first submission is about the centralisation of data and said that Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) claims that it is secure because it is federated -- that is the database is broken and stored in multiple locations.

He cited a recent Reserve Bank of India report circulated among its staffers, which identified Central ID Repository is a "single target" for internal/external/indigenous/foreign attacks and also a "single point of failure".

Earlier, Sibal had used Prime Minister Narendra Modi's recent speech at the World Economic Forum at Davos to prove its point syaing that one who controls data would control the world, saying the Centre would control personal information of citizens to have a grip over them.