SC's 'reasonable restrictions' cover all current uses of Aadhaar: UIDAI chief

The Supreme Court verdict declaring privacy to be a fundamental right does not spell an end to Aadhaar since all the current uses of the unique identity number fall under the ''reasonable restrictions'' which have been outlined in the judgement, Ajay Bhushan Pandey, chief executive of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), told The Economic Times.

He said Aadhaar can continue to be linked with subsidy schemes since reasonable restrictions laid down by the Court include prevention of ''dissipation of welfare benefits'', adding that while another Supreme Court Bench will hear the specific Aadhaar matter and take a final call on the issue, all the current uses of Aadhaar fall under the reasonable restrictions category.

He said while the linkage with bank accounts and PAN cards can prevent crimes such as money laundering and impersonation and are covered under 'prevention of crime' restrictions, projects such as Aadhaar Pay could fall under 'innovation' as outlined by the judgement.

''The judgement is very good, this will strengthen Aadhaar. Today, we have certain privacy protection measures, but the situation may change with the change in the technology when the new usage starts coming, with the judgement the contours have been defined. And therefore every use of Aadhaar in the future will have to be within that boundary,'' Pandey said. He added that the judgement has done a lot of balancing.

The judgement given by the nine member Supreme Court bench has said that privacy is a fundamental right but it is not absolute and is subject to certain reasonable restrictions. ''The court has given examples of legitimate state interests such as national security, preventing crime, encouraging innovation and spread of knowledge, and preventing the dissipation of welfare benefits. The current uses of Aadhaar fall in this category,'' said Pandey.

Pandey said when the government uses Aadhaar for bank account seeding or for PAN card, it is a case of compelling public interest of curbing tax evasion, benami accounts, and money laundering.