Prasanna S., a lawyer representing petitioners, said the court had delivered a "body blow" to the "vision of the Aadhaar project as a universal and ubiquitous ID" and the order "effectively makes Aadhaar voluntary, not mandatory".
Private Bodies: The court also ruled that schools can not insist on Aadhaar and read down Section 57 of the Act, barring sharing of information with corporate bodies.
According to Compendium of Regulations of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), "The Aadhaar number holder may, at any time, revoke consent given to a KUA for storing his e-KYC data or for sharing it with third parties, and upon such revocation, the KUA shall delete the e-KYC data and cease any further sharing". However, former Union Minister Jairam Ramesh challenged the manner in which the Aaadhar Act was passed and the case was clubbed with the petitions.
The world's largest biometric database, named Aadhaar after a Hindi word for "foundation", was originally labeled as a tool to help welfare services reach poorer citizens.
"If Aadhaar works really well, people just receive the same benefits as before", says Reetika Kheera, an Indian economist and social scientist.
"We welcome the Supreme Court's decision to strike down Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act".
Calling Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act the government's "surveillance tool", Congress said, "By striking it down, the SC has firmly put an end to the mass surveillance exercise being carried out under the guise of Aadhar by the Central government and the grotesque distortion of an idea conceived by the UPA".
It's worth noting that the government had earlier made Aadhaar mandatory for availing a host of benefits such as schemes for the below poverty line category, LPG subsidies, midday meals in schools, etc. The Supreme Court had said in March that linking of the Aadhaar to PAN, bank accounts and mobile numbers is to be extended indefinitely till the judgment.
Justice Sikri struck down Section 57 which permitted private entities to avail Aadhaar data from individuals and ruled that Aadhaar authentication data can not be stored for more than six months.
But several high-profile leaks of citizens' data have raised privacy concerns.
Linking of Aadhaar with IT returns, PAN card - Mandatory. The court has struck down the provision in Aadhaar Act which provides for retention of data for a period of 5 years. The verdict is brilliant by the Supreme Court and it gets my thumbs up.
"The majority has upheld the goal of Aadhaar and said that it pursues a legitimate state aim", said Zoheb Hossain, a government lawyer, adding that the state could still pass legislation to allow private organizations to use Aadhaar.
The apex court's five-judge Constitution bench said Aadhaar was meant to be "unique" and it was better to be unique than being best.
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