The bench, also comprising of D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, had on May 10 reserved its judgment on a string of writ petitions, pending since 2012, challenging the constitutionality of the Aadhaar Act, bringing to a conclusion which, in the words of Attorney General KK Venugopal, was the second-longest hearing in the history of the apex court.
The first of the three verdicts was pronounced by Justice A K Sikri who wrote the judgement for himself, CJI and Justice A M Khanwilkar. "Dignity to the marginalised outweighs privacy", Justice Sikri's judgment read.
The Supreme Court also ruled that the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), University Grants Commission (UGC) can not make Aadhaar mandatory.
Section 57 which permitted private players such as banks, mobile companies to insist on Aadhaar struck down.
A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra held that constitutional functionaries, who have taken pledge to uphold constitutional principles, were charged with the responsibility to ensure that the existing political framework does not get tainted with the "evil of corruption".
The system, which now contains biometric and other personal information for more than 1.13 billon Indians, has spawned six years of legal challenges and been a lightning rod for debates about privacy, data sovereignty and digital governance in what will soon be the world's most populated country.
Justice Chandrachud also said collection of data may lead to individual profiling of citizens.
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Does the government have the right to demand the citizens to link sensitive information such as bank accounts with the Aadhaar which also requires biometric, retinal scan, and facial recognition? Does Aadhaar improve welfare?
The SC was examining if the 12-digit Aadhaar number violates the Right to Privacy, which was declared a fundamental right by the apex court past year.
He emphasised that there is fundamental difference between the Aadhaar and other identity proofs.
Is there sufficient protection for the massive amounts of data that the state has collected as part of the Aadhaar project?
While referring to constitutional provisions, the bench said that according to the laws laid down earlier, it was clear that regarding disqualification of lawmakers "the law has to be made by Parliament".
There is no institutional responsibility of the UIDAI to protect the data of citizens, he said, adding that there was absence of a regulatory mechanism to provide robust data protection. 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. However, he said it was now impossible to live in India without Aadhaar but it was violative of Article 14.