July 8, 2019
Sukhendu Sekhar Roy speaks on the Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019
Sir, I rise to oppose this Bill. In this Session, six Ordinances have been turned into Bills and passed by this Parliament without the scrutiny of the Standing Committee, Select Committee or Joint Committee. Yeh to parampara ban gaya abhi ki koi bhi Bill lane ke pehle Ordinance le aayo; Standing Committee, Select Committee or Joint Committee ko goli maro, un committees ka koi jarurat hain nehi. Public scrutiny ka koi jarurat hain nehi. Different public bodies can represent before the Parliamentary Committees, so that has been done away with. In this way six Ordinances were promulgated, turned into Bills and passed. This is the seventh one, the seventh Ordinance, now it is a Bill. It was not scrutinized by the members of the Select Committee or Joint Committee or the Standing Committee of Parliament. So this is the way the government is treating Parliament and the importance of Parliament is being denigrated day by day by the present government, I’m sorry to say.
Sir, this government is repeatedly denying the people to ventilate their grievances through the Parliamentary Committees. Not only that, this Amendment Bill is circumventing the Supreme Court’s Order and judgment of September 2018, whereby, the apex court struck down Section 57 of the parent Aadhaar Act which enabled the corporate bodies to eavesdrop on an individual through the unique identification number. Now, in this Bill, not only a corporate body, any entity as may be described and there are 13-14 places in this Bill where the government has prescribed enabling provisions as may be prescribed. So, in the Act there is no murmur of what the government is going to do in the future but 13 or 14 enabling provisions have been made so that as may be prescribed by the authority. Which authority? UIDAI: and what is the role of UIDAI? We know everything about the UIDAI but Sir, even, the UIDAI has said on record, that they cannot certify or verify or authenticate the data bases of Aadhaar. Then who will certify as there is no authority to certify or verify or authenticate the Aadhaar database. That is why the Supreme Court, while passing the judgment in September 2018, mentioned that there should be a data protection authority before the government goes for amending the parent Act, which the government is yet to do. Even for the Supreme Court judgment, this government has no uncanny respect to comply with the directions or observations of the Supreme Court, as is incorporated in the 1,100-page judgment.
Sir, this Bill says that other than DVT, Aadhaar is voluntary. Honourable Minister has said, Bill also says that, but India is a country with low digital literacy. How many of us are aware of digital things? Personally speaking Sir, I do not know. There are millions of people in this country, majority of the people they do not know. Most of our country, people are not aware of their legal rights also or know how their personal information can be used or misused. This is the situation at the time when this Aadhaar Bill we are discussing and going to pass without any scrutiny of the Parliamentary Committee.
Sir, let us say hypothetically, Section 57 has been set aside by the Supreme Court. Suppose in such a situation, a judgement has been delivered that intercourse is banned, so in such an event thereafter the question of intercourse with consent or involuntarily does not arise. Similarly, because we are all adults, we must discuss everything in details how this Bill has come.
Sir, we all know about the data hacking in countries like USA. What happened in USA, it is known as Equifax data breach of 2017, when the breach resulted in the attackers accessing personal information of 145.5 million people in USA. Their data was hacked. In our country also, data of 130 million Aadhaar cards had been leaked in 2017 from Government websites. This is the alarming situation we are living under and there is no murmur in this Bill, no whisper in this Bill as to how the database of the Aadhaar card holders will be protected and by which authority, nobody knows.
Sir, it seems to me that it could be a main reason that the private offer players, they can have a free for all situation to deal with our Aadhaar data base for commercial exploitation. That may be the main reason for introducing the Ordinance and also this Bill.
Sir, after the Supreme Court judgement of September 2018, we expected, there was a natural expectation kept in the minds of the people that the Government would come first with a data protection Bill and subsequently introduce this Aadhaar Amendment Bill. But it is a matter of deep regret and concern that without a recourse mechanism and a law that protects the rights of the citizens of their personal data, this Government has come without any such legislation.
Sir, asked under the RTI to provide information, no ministry or any department of the Government could provide any information about the laws, rules and procedures that create any beneficiaries database. The UIDAI has admitted that it does not certify the biometric or demographic data associated with Aadhaar numbers.
Sir, the UIDAI is on record saying that it seems to have no view about the number of unit records based on biometric or demographic fields. It does not even know if there was an enrolment operator belonging to a private agency appointed by one of the 20 registrars whose enrolments make up most of the Aadhaar numbers in the 6 lakh villages, 5,000 towns and cities or even the 707 districts where enrolment allegedly happened. This is the situation.
Further, Sir, in a democratic setup, various authorities have been entrusted with huge powers to be exercised for the common good. So they have to exercise those powers for the common good. They, including the governmental authorities, cannot exercise those powers at their whims and fancies. Under the constitutional statutes, whatever powers have been entrusted have to be exercised for the common good.
But the objective of the Bill, as it appears to me, is not for the common good but for a section of the people – mainly the private operators and private entities – which will benefit through commercial exploitation of people’s personal data. For that purpose only has the Bill been brought forth and that is why the parliamentary committees – the Standing Committees, Joint Committees, Select Committees – have been avoided and even the Amendments that we wanted to move on the Bill was not accepted on technical grounds.
Has the Government the courage to face the Amendments? The Government could have allowed the members to press their Amendments while passing this Bill, but it does not have that courage. It is enjoying the brute majority, and with the help of that, they want to do and undo whatever it wants. That is the situation, Sir.
Again I am telling you, that in a democratic setup, if the constitutional powers or statutory powers are exercised at the whims and fancies of the authorities, then there is the danger of the rise of authoritarianism. I can see in the horizon that authoritarianism is on the rise, and that will lead to the negation of our parliamentary democracy of our country. With my 51 years of experience in politics, I warn my friends in the Opposition and the people outside, that don’t accept this sort of attitude on the part of the Government, a Government that, by exercising its majority, will bring any sort of Bill and Parliament will have to bow down before the Government to accept that Bill in whatever manner is brought.
Thank you, Sir.