Throughout the one year when the Justice Srikrishna Committee was deliberating on the Privacy Legislation in India, Aadhaar was the focus of the privacy activists. There was one group of people who were completely against Aadhaar and have been trying to convince the Supreme Court that Aadhaar is a threat to Privacy Right and has to be abandoned. They cited the many data breaches sorrounding the Aadhaar to discredit the Aadhaar system. On its part, UIDAI introduced the Virtual Aadhaar facility so that the Aadhaar identity need not be over exposed and also brought some additional controls on the Aadhaar authentication agencies by treating only a few as “Global AUAs” and the rest as “Local AUAs”. During most of the public consultantion programs that the Srikrishna Panel held across the country, several concerns were expressed that because of Aadhaar non availability or failure, people are losing their ration and facing several difficulties etc.
Naavi has been speculating that the opposition was mainly from those who were hurt with the liking of Aadhaar to the Bank and PAN numbers and the proposed linking of Aadhaar to the property records. These measures were a blow to the holders of black money and they were voicing their opposition to the Aadhaar on grounds of Privacy and Security threats.
Even the Supreme Court held back its judgement awaiting the passing of the Privacy Act on which the Srikrishna Panel was working.
It was therefore logical that the Srikrishna committee when it was finalizing its report had several suggestions to harden the Aadhaar legislation. Justice Srikrishna is a pragmatic judicial expert whose years of experience were available for drafting of the report and his views are therefore to be considered as meaningful suggestions that need to be translated into action at the earliest.
However, when we look at the final release of the Srikrishna committee report, it appeared that there was some difficulty in forging consensus in the committee as to the final recommendations. While the report did contain a whole Appendix where suggestions for amendments to the Aadhaar (Target delivery of financial and other subsidies, benefits and services) Act 2016, it was not incorporated into the draft Bill namely the “Draft Personal Data Protection Act 2018” (PDPA2018). Only amendments to ITA 2000 (Removal of Section 43A) and a small amendment to the RTI Act were added. The Committee in fact identified a list of 50 allied laws which were affected by the proposed legislation of which only amendments to ITA 2000 and RTI Act were incorporated in the draft bill.
Given the expertise which was at hand, the committee was capable of suggesting amendments to all these legislations but did not do so. In fact even the critical suggestions regarding Aadhaar were only incorporated as a suggestion in an Appendix and it is now left to the Government to bring a separate bill for the amendment of the Aadhaar Act.
After the release of the two documents namely the draft bill and the committee’s report, we have seen that there has been sharp criticisms on the proposed amendment to the RTI Act. The opposition to Aadhaar was expressed in the report itself in the form of the dissenting notes from one Professor and another representative of DSCI. Additionally there has been dissent on the Data localization suggestions of the Committee.
There is a possibility that some minor changes to the draft bill can be made before it is passed.
We shall therefore try to discuss the major points of dissent and try to understand why there is an opposition from some sections of the industry which has tried to express itself in the dissenting note of the DSCI representative in the report itself.
….To be continued