#Aadhaar: Centre’s figures of 115 crore Aadhaar puffed up, petitioner to Supreme Court

#Aadhaar: Centre’s figures of 115 crore Aadhaar puffed up, petitioner to Supreme Court

Murali Krishnan

Responding to the counter affidavit filed by the Central government in the Aadhaar case, petitioner Kalyani Sen Menon has filed a rejoinder affidavit rebutting the Central government’s submissions regarding the reach and achievements of Aadhaar.

The affidavit, which has been filed through Advocate-on-Record Vipin Nair, specifically rebuts the contention made by the Centre regarding the figures pertaining to enrolment for Aadhaar.

The Centre had submitted that around 115 crore people have enrolled for Aadhaar, thereby questioning the petitioner’s locus to file the petitions as a PIL. Responding to this, the petitioner has stated,

“…the Respondent has attempted to conflate the number of persons enrolled to argue an impossibility of exclusion. To make such an assertion it brings forth two statistics, the first being more than 95.10% of India’s entire population possesses a Aadhaar and further with 115.15 Crore enrolments Aadhaar has the widest coverage amongst citizens. It is humbly submitted such figures amount to puffery”

The petitioner has set out the following as the basis for the assertion that the figures are puffed up:

“Aadhaar enrollment has been open to residents (a wider or at the very least a distinct class) rather than citizens for enrollment;

Enrollment has been done on the back of coercive measures where people have been denied or have feared disruption in entitlements until they apply or obtain Aadhaar, something that is evident from the terms of the impugned notifications themselves, which threaten disruption of essential services by a specified date as a result of failure to enrol in Aadhaar;

Aadhaar enrollment has been without adequate verification and in many instances the Respondent itself has stated that the enrollment has been over 110% of the recorded population in many states giving concerns as to fraud within the system; in states such as Delhi, enrolment stands in                    excess of 115%.

The basis of the percentage and the numbers includes persons who are deceased; (e) In a Right to Information response dated December 28, 2016 the Respondent itself stated that 99.9% persons who have an Aadhaar obtained it on the basis two pre-existing IDs. The Respondent stated that till 2016, when over 105.1 crore residents had enrolled, only 8,47,366 – or 0.08% – got Aadhaar through “introducer system.” Hence, the claim that Aadhaar has rather than being an instrument of exclusion instead resulted in inclusion is deeply flawed.”

Further, the petitioner has submitted that Aadhaar has resulted in exclusion of certain classes through enrolment and use.

“…there exist no reasonable class of exclusions in the notifications made under the Aadhaar Act, 2016 which are applicable to persons irrespective of disability, age or other factors. It is submitted that in the absence of any such reasonable class of exclusions Aadhaar has been made mandatory for vulnerable sections such as:

  • bonded labourers;
  • children availing mid-day meals especially in drought prone areas;
  • allowance, benefits and scholarships for students with disabilities.”

Regarding the savings cited by the Centre as having accrued due to Aadhaar, the petitioner has listed various reasons to canvass that the same is incorrect and a gross exaggeration.

Interestingly, the contention by the Centre regarding Aadhaar furthering ‘Right to Identity’ has also been specifically addressed by the petitioner.

“Respondents’ attempt to advocate the Aadhaar project as a project in furtherance of fundamental rights and particularly ‘the right to identity’, as enshrined in Article 21, is clearly a result of a misconception of what is not only the right to identity but also of what is a right per se.  It is indeed welcome that the Union of India has admitted before this Hon’ble Court the existence of the citizens’ right to identity and it forming part of the fundamental right under Article 21, a privilege that the Respondents have denied to an arguably more established right in the right to privacy. 

However, it must be pointed out herein that what Aadhaar project does is actually antithetical to the concept of the right to identity inasmuch as it makes identity subject to the exercise and manner of exercise of the power to identify by the authority in the Unique Identification Authority of India.  The contrast between a ‘right’ and a ‘liability’ that arises out of being subject to another person’s power is known clearly in law.”

The case is coming up for hearing on June 27.

Read the rejoinder below.

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