India’s Supreme Court has indefinitely extended the central government’s deadline for linking the Aadhaar national biometric ID program to various services and social subsidies in the country.
The decision was made in consultation with the Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, and is the result of a protracted legal battle over the validity of government efforts to make Aadhaar authentication mandatory for government services. While Aadhaar’s presence in Indian society has rapidly expanded over the last couple of years, a Supreme Court ruling asserting that privacy is a fundamental right of Indian citizens last summer threw doubt over the future expansion of the program, which combines citizens’ biographic and certain biometric data into a single credential for each citizen.
Seeking to make Aadhaar authentication mandatory for citizens seeking access to a range of services, the central government had previously established a deadline of March 31st. But it has since become clear that the Supreme Court would not be able to come to a definitive ruling on the legality of such a measure before that deadline, prompting the extension.
Bizarrely, the ruling to extend the deadline included wording suggesting that the Supreme Court’s five-judge panel had already ruled against the government’s side of the issue: As Reuters reports, Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra asserted, “The government cannot insist on mandatory Aadhaar.”
March 13, 2018 – by Alex Perala