Source: The Hindu. Relevance: GS Paper ll (Government Policies and Interventions) & GS Paper lll (Issues Arising Out Of Design and Implementation Of Policies) Context: The updated Aadhaar cards and PDF versions now explicitly specify that they serve as proof of identity only, not confirming citizenship or date of birth. Government departments and organisations are advised against utilising Aadhaar for verifying citizenship or birth date.

Aadhaar Overview:

  • The UIDAI issues Aadhaar, a 12-digit unique identification number, to all Indian residents.

  • Enacted through the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act of 2016.

  • Functioning as proof of identity, it is linked to. biometric and demographic details

  • Inaugurated in 2009, the Aadhaar initiative strives to provide a unique and verifiable identity for every Indian resident.


Citizenship Overview:

  • Definition and Relationship: Citizenship denotes the legal status and connection between an individual and a state, encompassing specific rights and responsibilities.

  • Modes of Acquisition: The Citizenship Act of 1955 outlines five avenues for obtaining citizenship: birth, descent, registration, naturalization, and incorporation of territory.

  • Renunciation Provisions: The same Act addresses the renunciation of citizenship through termination, deprivation, and voluntary renunciation.

  • Constitutional Framework: The Indian Constitution delineates citizenship in Part II, covering Articles 5 to 11.

  • Exclusive Parliamentary Jurisdiction: Citizenship finds a place in the Union List of the Constitution, placing it solely within the jurisdiction of the Parliament.

  • Birth Certificate Significance: A birth certificate in India holds the significance of serving as evidence for identity, age, and Indian citizenship.

  • Registration Requirements: According to the Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969, it is mandatory to register births within 21 days, reinforcing the documentation process.

Legal Clarity on Aadhaar: Scope, Validity, and Usage Clarifications:

  • Bombay High Court Clarification: In the 2022 case of State of Maharashtra vs Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the Bombay High Court defined Aadhaar’s limitations, emphasising its role as proof of identity and residence, excluding citizenship or date of birth verification.

  • Supreme Court Validation: The Supreme Court of India, in the 2018 case of Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) and Anr. vs Union Of India, affirmed the constitutional validity of Aadhaar. The court clarified that Section 9 of the Aadhaar Act, 2016 explicitly states that possessing an Aadhaar number doesn’t confer citizenship or domicile rights.

  • MeitY Memorandum: In a 2018 memorandum, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) specified that Aadhaar is not a standalone proof of date of birth, highlighting the reliance on a separate document provided by Aadhaar applicants.

  • EPFO Directive: The Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO), overseeing the mandatory retirement fund for Indian salaried employees, issued a January 2024 circular. This circular removed Aadhaar from the list of acceptable documents as proof of date of birth. Concerns Surrounding Aadhaar:

  • Use as Proof of Citizenship or Date of Birth: The Election Commission of India currently acknowledges Aadhaar as evidence of date of birth for voter enrollment. The recent explicit cautions on Aadhaar use, prominently featured on the identity document, may raise questions about such endorsements.

  • Privacy and Security Issues: Aadhaar involves the capture and storage of sensitive personal data, including fingerprints, iris scans, and facial images, heightening thevulnerability to data breaches, identity theft, and surveillance.

  • Biometric Authentication Challenges: Aadhaar relies on biometric verification for service access, introducing concerns related to technology reliability and accuracy. Infrastructure availability and quality, as well as the risk of exclusion and denial of services due to biometric failures, are noteworthy challenges associated with this authentication method.

Way Forward:

  • Raise Awareness Through Campaigns: Initiate extensive awareness campaigns targeting the general public, government entities, and organizations to disseminate information about the updated disclaimer on Aadhaar cards.

  • Clarify Aadhaar’s Limited Purpose: Emphasize that Aadhaar serves exclusively as evidence for identity and residence, explicitly stating its non-verification status for citizenship or date of birth.

  • Conduct Comprehensive Assessment: Undertake a thorough reassessment of Aadhaar’s functions and permissible uses, taking into account legal, privacy, and security considerations.

  • Enhance Data Security: Implement robust data security measures to ensure the protection of sensitive information stored in the Aadhaar database, mitigating the risks associated with breaches and unauthorized access.

  • Improve Biometric Verification: Explore innovative solutions to enhance the reliability and accuracy of biometric verification, aiming to reduce instances of failures and exclusions in the authentication process.

  • Promote Collaborative Efforts: Foster collaborative efforts among stakeholders to collectively enhance the overall effectiveness and inclusivity of the Aadhaar system, promoting a more streamlined and secure identification process. Addressing concerns surrounding Aadhaar requires a multifaceted approach. Raising awareness, clarifying its limited scope, reassessing its functions, ensuring robust data security, improving biometric verification, and fostering collaboration are crucial steps toward a more reliable and inclusive Aadhaar system.

Advait IAS