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Arun Jaitley hints at new law after Supreme Court bars private companies from using Aadhaar data

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, while hailing the Aadhaar verdict, said that his government would assess whether the Supreme Court has banned private companies from using Aadhaar data based on procedural concerns.

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Arun Jaitley hints at new law after Supreme Court bars private companies from using Aadhaar data
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, while hailing the Aadhaar verdict, said that his government would assess whether the Supreme Court has banned private companies from using Aadhaar based on procedural concerns, hinting at new laws which could allow banks and private entities to access UIDAI data for authentication purposes.

"If it is backed by law, it is not unconstitutional," Jaitley said when he was asked about Supreme Court striking down Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act, a provision which allowed "any body corporate or person" or private entity to demand Aadhaar.

The Finance Minister lauded the SC verdict on Aadhaar as historic, adding that the concept of Aadhaar has been accepted after judicial review and the government welcomes the apex court's decision.

Jaitley said those criticising the unique identification scheme need to understand that they "cannot defy technology". He added that the "mainstream should accept changes, one can understand the fringe being against Aadhaar".

The Finance Minister also dismissed the criticism by the Congress party, saying that the grand old party "cuts a very sorry figure here" as it introduced the idea of Aadhaar but "did not know what to do with it".

Jaitley, however, said he was yet to read the verdict.

The Supreme Court, in its ruling, said that Section 57 in the present form is susceptible to misuse. "It can be used for establishing the identity of an individual 'for any purpose'. We read down this provision to mean that such a purpose has to be backed by law," the judgement read.

The court added a caveat that whenever any such "law" is made, it would be subject to judicial scrutiny.

"Apart from authorising the State, even 'any body corporate or person' is authorised to avail authentication services which can be on the basis of purported agreement between an individual and such body corporate or person. Even if we presume that legislature did not intend so, the impact of the aforesaid features would be to enable commercial exploitation of an individual biometric and demographic information by the private entities. Thus, this part of the provision which enables body corporate and individuals also to seek authentication, that too on the basis of a contract between the individual and such body corporate or person, would impinge upon the right to privacy of such individuals. This part of the section, thus, is declared unconstitutional," the apex court's judgment read.

Meanwhile, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union Minister for Law and Justice and Information and Technology, said the government would soon introduce a data protection law based on the recommendations of the report of the Srikrishna committee on data privacy.

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