No denial of service, subsidy in case of biometric authentication failure: Centre to SC
The Central government told the Supreme Court on Tuesday that the authentication failure of the biometric data of an Aadhaar holder does not result in the exclusion of the beneficiary from accessing subsidies and other benefits including services.
The authentication failure does not mean exclusion or denial from subsidies, benefits or services since the requesting entities are obliged under the law (Aadhaar Act, 2016) “to provide for exception handling mechanism”, the government told the five judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra.
Giving the figures of authentication failure of IRIS scan and finger prints at the national level, the court was told that of the 1,08,50,391 persons, who participated in iris scan authentication and failed was 927,132 - that is 8.54% and in case of finger print scan of the 61,63,63,346 who participated, the failure was 3,69,62,619 which comes to 6%.
The court was told that figures for authentication failure at the state level are not available with the UIDAI as it does not track the location of the authentication transaction at this level.
The bench, also comprising Justice AK Sikri, Justice AM Khanwilkar, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Ashok Bhushan, was told that in the situation where both iris scan and finger prints can’t be used for authentication, the mobile number is one of the methods used.
However, in situations where even authentication through mobile number is not possible or feasible, the requesting entities have to provide their own ways of authentication and backup mechanism, the court was told that UIDAI has already implemented a digitally signed QR code into Aadhaar which allows agencies to verify the Aadhaar card in an offline manner.
The court was told that the numbers of biometric de-duplication rejection that have taken place are 6.91 crore as on March 21. These are the cases where Aadhaar de-duplication system have identified as having matching biometrics to an existing Aadhaar number holder.
However, it clarified that that the mere fact that 6.234 crore people have been rejected as biometric duplicates does not mean that they have been denied the Aadhaar number.
The court was told this in response to answer to 20 questions that were asked by the petitioners on the conclusion of power presentation by the UIDAI CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey on March 27.
Defending the Aadhaar scheme, Attorney General KK Venugopal told the constitution bench that unless there are serious negatives, the Aadhaar Act passes the test of constitutionality.
Pointing out that tremendous efforts were put in to ensure that Aadhaar invades or impinges the privacy to the “minimum possible manner”, he said: “We have structured the law so that it satisfies the three requirements of the validity of a law - that it is fair, just and reasonable.”
Telling the court that Aadhaar Act is a better law with “lesser glitches”, he the constitution bench that it has rendered a great service and enormous funds put into it can’t be allowed to go waste.
The court was told this in the course of the hearing of a batch of petitions by former Karnataka High Court Judge KS Puttuswamy, Magsaysay awardee Shanta Sinha, feminist researcher Kalyani Sen Menon, social activist Aruna Roy, Nikhil De, Nachiket Udupa and others challenging the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar scheme on the touchstone of the fundamental right to privacy.