Privacy groups oppose Kerala govt’s order mandating Aadhaar for govt jobs

The Internet Freedom Foundation, Rethink Aadhaar and Swathanthra Malayalam Computing endorsed a legal notice sent by Kalyani Menon Sen against the government’s move.
Aadhaar card rep image
Aadhaar card rep image
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On June 26, feminist researcher and activist Kalyani Menon Sen sent a legal notice to the Government of Kerala, against its order to make Aadhaar verification mandatory for state government jobs. The letter was prompted by an order issued by the Kerala Personnel and Administrative Reforms Department on June 11, making Aadhaar verification for applicants and newly-appointed government employees mandatory.

On June 29, the researcher’s notice was endorsed by the Internet Freedom Foundation, an NGO that defends online freedom in India, Rethink Aadhaar, a non-partisan campaign concerned about the Aadhaar project, and Swathanthra Malayalam Computing, a free software collective working in the Malayalam language. 

In their joint statement, all three privacy and digital rights groups call on the Kerala government to withdraw the order as it goes against the Supreme Court’s order on the use of the unique ID.

“As Ms. Menon Sen's legal notice notes, mandating Aadhaar verification for new appointees and applicants violates the order of the Supreme Court relating to Aadhaar, KS Puttaswamy v Union of India (2019 10 SCC 1). The 5-judge bench specified that mandating the use of Aadhaar numbers, whether for verification or any other purpose, was constitutionally valid for two purposes only: for linking with PAN numbers, and for obtaining welfare benefits in the nature of a subsidy which is funded from the Consolidated Fund of India,” their statement reads.

The groups also point out that the Supreme Court had read down Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act as it then stood ‘and specified that the State could use Aadhaar only if it met the following two conditions: that such use was voluntary, and that such use was covered by primary legislation for that purpose.’

Hrishikesh Bhaskaran, Secretary of Swathanthra Malayalam Computing, said that in addition to privacy issues, the stand taken by a government that has voiced its opinion against the mandating of Aadhaar is disappointing. 

“The political stand taken by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has been to fight the privacy issues of Aadhaar and therefore, this move by the ruling party is least expected as well as disappointing,” he said.

Kalyani wrote in her notice that the Aadhaar project, at the best of times, does not work. “It is riddled with problems, the very least of which is the inclusion of wrong names, birth dates, addresses and incorrectly entered details. The requirement for verification of applicants to public service jobs cannot and should not be linked to Aadhaar,” read the notice.

The researcher as well as the privacy groups endorsing the notice pointed out that “the purpose of preventing fraud cannot and should not be carried out by breaches to privacy, dignity and autonomy of individuals, especially in the absence of any clear basis in law.”

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