Last week Kalyani Menon Sen, a citizen, and petitioner in the Aadhaar case sent a legal notice to the Government of Kerala which has made Aadhaar mandatory for all state government jobs. We are issuing a joint statement supporting this action alongwith Rethink Aadhaar, Article 21 and Swathanthra Malayalam Computing.
The joint statement prepared by RethinkAadhaar in english is given below. A malayalam version has also been prepared by Anivar Aravind from Swathanthra Malayalam Computing for circulation. All relevant documents, such as the legal notice by Kalyani Menon Sen are also available at the end as links.
"Kalyani Menon Sen, a citizen, and petitioner in the batch of writ petitions challenging the constitutionality of Aadhaar in KS Puttaswamy v Union of India (2019 10 SCC 1) has sent the Government of Kerala a legal notice demanding that it withdraw a recent order mandating compulsory Aadhaar verification for all new applicants and recent appointees to state government jobs. Internet Freedom Foundation, Rethink Aadhaar, Article 21 and Swathanthra Malayalam Computing endorse this legal notice, and call on the Kerala Government to withdraw this order.
The order dated 11.06.2020, which was issued by the Kerala Government's Department of Personnel & Administrative Reforms, relates to applicants and new appointments to the Kerala Public Service Commission. 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. The Hon’ble Supreme Court also 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.
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. As a constitutional body, the Government of Kerala, and the KPSC are bound to uphold the rule of law and the judgements of the Supreme Court, and should withdraw the notification, and clarify that Aadhaar verification remains optional."
IFF's work on Aadhaar and Digital Identity
Organisationally the Internet Freedom Foundation has had a clear stand on Aadhaar in which we support the leadership of diverse campaigns, collectives and individuals and seek to learn and offer support. These come from rooted and lived experiences of activists who have worked on issues of right to food, subsidies, privacy and surveillance.
More information on this is available in an organisational statement dated November 23, 2017 and a statement on the Supreme's Court's judgement on Aadhaar. We have after September, 2018 been able to utilise growing capacity through dedicated staff to more actively engage on issues of privacy, surveillance and digital identity. Specifically towards Aadhaar this has meant some strategic litigation before the High Court of Madras, and we have cautioned against the possibility of Aadhaar linking with the National Population Register.
IFF believes that any digital technology should lead to greater human freedom that is achieved through individual liberty and social justice. We recognise the leadership of others and hope to continue provide them support and resources wherever and whenever we can. We encourage diverse groups and collectives to reach out to us to inform and deepen our advocacy and analysis.