If missing children can be traced by using Aadhaar biometrics, why cannot the same system be used to identify dead persons is a question raised in a plea moved in the Delhi High Court on Tuesday. A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao asked the Centre and the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) to respond to the application by February 5, the next date of hearing. The application was moved by social activist Amit Sahni, also a lawyer, in his main petition seeking a direction to the Centre and UIDAI to utilise Aadhaar biometrics to identify the unidentified dead bodies.
On the last date of hearing, the UIDAI had told the court that it was technically not possible to match the fingerprints of an unidentified body with the biometrics of 120 crore people stored in its database. It had claimed that matching of biometrics, including fingerprints and iris, was done on a 1:1 basis and the Aadhaar number was required for it. Sahni, in his application, has referred to some recent news reports, in which the UIDAI has claimed to have traced more than 500 children by using Aadhaar biometrics.
He has also placed before the court pamphlets purportedly circulated on the social media by the UIDAI regarding Aadhaar's benefits, including tracing of missing children. The application contends that the news reports and the pamphlets "falsify the stand of the UIDAI that dead persons cannot be identified by using Aadhaar". The main petition has sought a direction to the Centre, UIDAI, National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) and the states to scan the biometrics of the unidentified bodies and process them with the Aadhaar portal to trace any pre-existing biometric details.
Sahni, in his petition, has also sought directions to the Centre and UIDAI to share the pre-existing Aadhaar details, if any, without any delay with the NCRB and the states for the identification of dead bodies. A similar plea was earlier filed by the petitioner before the Supreme Court, which had asked him to approach the Delhi High Court, where he has already filed a petition for using Aadhaar biometrics for the purpose of tracing and re-uniting missing and mentally-challenged persons with their families. Thereafter, he withdrew the plea from the top court.
The plea says despite registering the biometrics and scanning more than 122 crore citizens at the Aadhaar portal, the database is not being utilised for identifying bodies. It adds that thousands of unidentified bodies are recovered in the country every year. A five-judge Constitution bench of the apex court had on September 26 declared the Centre's flagship Aadhaar scheme as constitutionally valid but had struck down some of its provisions, including its linking with bank accounts, mobile phones and school admissions.
The bench had held that while Aadhaar would remain mandatory for filing Income Tax returns and allotment of the Permanent Account Number (PAN), it would not be compulsory to link it with bank accounts and that telecom service providers cannot seek its linking for mobile connections.