The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has recently reported that Aadhaar biometric data cannot be shared with third parties for any purpose other than for generating Aadhaar and for authentication of identity of the Aadhaar holders.
This comment of UIDAI had come in response to a proposal of Mr. Ish Kumar, the chief of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) that stated that limited access to Aadhaar data is required for identifying and catching first time offenders and for identifying unidentified bodies. Mr. Ish Kumar further stated that firstly, most of the first time offenders, whose details are not available in the police records, leave their fingerprints at the crime scene and secondly, that every year thousands of unidentified bodies are recovered. Thus, with access to a limited extent to the Aadhaar data, they could be easily identified.
But the UIDAI has strictly restricted sharing and giving access to Aadhaar biometric data to the police department or the crime investigating agency for any reason whatsoever other than that mentioned in Section 29 of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act 2016 (the Act). Section 29 of the Act states that core biometric information, collected or created under this Act shall not be shared or used for any purpose other than for generation of Aadhaar numbers and authentication under this Act. Although Section 33 of the Act allows disclosure of biometric and identity information or authentication records in exceptional cases:
Pursuant to an order of a court (not inferior to that of a District Judge);
In the interest of national security in pursuance of a direction of an officer not below the rank of Joint Secretary to the Government of India specially authorized in this behalf by an order of the Central Government. But before such a direction can be brought into effect, it shall be reviewed by an Oversight Committee consisting of the Cabinet Secretary and the Secretaries to the Government of India in the Department of Legal Affairs and the Department of Electronics and Information Technology.
The UIDAI, in Unique Identification Auth. of India and Anr. v. Central Bureau of Investigation 2014 SCC OnLine Bom 4753, has sought to challenge the Order of the Magistrate dated 22.10.2013 before the Bombay High Court. The Magistrate’s Order provided for sharing certain data to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) upon an application of the CBI for summoning to produce document or other things for the purposes of any investigation, or inquiry, etc under Section 91 of the Criminal Procedure Code 1973. But the Bombay High Court had reserved its order until any final orders are passed by the Supreme Court in this regard.
The Supreme Court had passed an interim order in Unique Identification Auth. of India and Anr. v. Central Bureau of Investigation dated 24.03.2014 and restrained the UIDAI from transferring any biometric information of any person who has been allotted the Aadhaar number to any other agency without his consent in writing. The matter is still pending before the Supreme Court for the final orders.
Senior Legal Associate
The Indian Lawyer