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The Madras High Court has been moved against the implementation of an Aadhaar Enabled Biometric Attendance System (AEBAS) for teaching and non-teaching employees of government or government-aided schools in Tamil Nadu.
When the plea came up for admission on Monday, Justice SM Subramaniam directed the state to file its counter in the matter by next week.
R Annal, a teacher at a government school in Nagercoil, has challenged a Tamil Nadu Government Order dated October 25, 2018, which seeks to implement the AEBAS, as unconstitutional, violative of the Aadhaar Act, 2016, and contrary to the Supreme Court’s September 2018 judgment in Justice KS Puttaswamy v Union of India.
Her petition points out that Section 7 of the 2016 Act limits the purposes for which authentication though Aadhaar number can be used. This provision lays down that the Aadhaar number can be used to establish the identity of an individual as a condition for receipt of a subsidy, benefit or service, where the expenditure is incurred from, or the receipt is a part of the Consolidated Fund of India.
“Therefore, the imposition of Aadhaar based authentication for any purpose other than those mentioned in Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act would clearly be bereft of basic jurisdictional authority”, the petition states.
The AEBAS sought to be introduced by the 2018 GO, on the other hand, would not fall within the purview of Section 7. As highlighted in the petition,
“Aadhaar-based authentication for the purposes of ensuring attendance by teachers at schools, through AEBAS, cannot under any circumstances, as is quite palpably evident, constitute “subsidy, benefit or service” within the definitions laid down in Section 2(f), (w) and (x) of the Aadhaar Act.”
The Supreme Court in the Puttaswamy case had also clarified that Aadhaar cannot be imposed on an individual for purposes other than those laid down in the 2016 Act, as it stands after being read down by the Court.
The petitioner, in this case, admits to not having enrolled for an Aadhaar card since the same is not mandatory and since she personally believes that it would entail a violation of her fundamental rights. The petitioner has also registered particular objection to a biometrics-based system, which she contends is violative of the fundamental right to privacy.
“…the very act of obtaining biometric information for the purpose of maintaining attendance in schools is a violation of my fundamental right to privacy and autonomy. I state that my biometric information such as fingerprint, iris, etc., are fully owned by me and the Respondents cannot compel me to submit the same for any reasons whatsoever. “
In view of these arguments, the petitioner contends,
“The mandatory linking of Aadhaar based biometrics with attendance systems at schools violates the very essence of the Aadhaar Act which is purported to creating a voluntary identity programme.”
She has argued that the imposition of the Aadhaar-based biometrics attendance system would violate Articles 14, 16, 19(1)(g), 21 and 25 of the Constitution. Therefore, she has prayed that the Court quash the GO as being arbitrary, unjust and illegal.