The Supreme Court on Wednesday came hard on the centre for using its earlier order on 'mandatory authentication of users' as a 'tool' by asking telecom companies to link the mobile numbers with Aadhaar. The SC indirectly hinted that the government manipulated its earlier order. The apex court - as explained by it on Wednesday during a hearing on the petitions challenging Aadhaar - while hearing a PIL filed by Lokniti Foundation, had said that "mobile users needed to be verified in the interest of national security". However, the government issued a Trai circular last year, making the mobile linking with Aadhaar mandatory to comply with the top court order.
So, why did the government do it? What was the need for it to use the SC directive on a PIL filed by Lokniti Foundation as a precedent to impose a condition on people to seed their mobile phones with Aadhaar?
The only explanation, so far, in this matter has been given by senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi. Dwivedi appeared for the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) in the court on Wednesday. Although he agreed the SC issued no such order, he explained the DoT (Department of Telecommunication) notification that talked about the re-verification of mobile numbers by using e-KYC process. He also said the government under the Section 4 of the Telegraph Act was legally correct to ask for the linking of Aadhaar with mobile numbers. He also cited national security as one of the many reasons to do it.
Ensuring that the Aadhaar data was safe and breach-proof, the senior lawyer said the Central Identities Data Repository was safe, the data was encrypted, and kept offline, reported PTI.
Dwivedi also told the court the Aadhaar database was of no use to telecom companies, for they have an even bigger database of customers. The Aadhaar related information is "immaterial" for them, he explained. He alleged the Aadhaar scheme was being targeted but no one was raising doubts about a huge pile of user information that banks as well as telecom companies possess.
He indicated the possible misuse of information by other institutions by giving an example of how, as one's car insurance is about to expire, companies start making numerous calls on daily basis.
"Appreciate the fact as to how much information a bank possesses about its customers. Every transaction as to what I purchase by using cards, where and when, all this information is with banks. Aadhaar does not tell all this. This information is already there and is being used for commercial purposes," he said.
He said Aadhaar can't be defamed as "surveillance tool" and claimed big companies possess more data about their customers than the UIDAI itself. "Vodafone can do targeted advertising using the data, which is already happening without Aadhaar. Vodafone has far more demographic data about an individual than UIDAI has," Dwivedi told the court.
Giving more examples, he explained that social media giant Facebook and search engine Google possess a lot of information about individuals with their advanced algorithm, though the UIDAI does not have that kind of algorithm.
Dwivedi said the government was ready to implement any measures to make the Aadhaar system better and asked the court to save the scheme.