India’s Supreme Court issues interim orders in national biometric ID card case (Aadhaar)


India’s Supreme Court has issued an important ruling and interim orders about a much-watched case related to India’s national biometric IDs and how they are used. More than 800 million biometric IDs have been issued to Indians, and are called the Aadhaar card or the UID, for Universal ID. The ruling raises questions about whether privacy is a fundamental right in India’s Constitutional scheme, and refers the matter to a larger bench.

The ruling also gives the Union of India interim orders regarding India’s national biometric ID cards. The orders require publicity as to the voluntariness of the card, and restrict its uses. The order will be in place until the case gets heard by a larger bench.

As of August 11, 2015:

  • The Union of India must publicize that Aardhaar cards are voluntary, and that the preparation of Aadhaar cards involve the collection of biometric information.
  • The UIDs can only be used for specific social benefits programs.
  • The production of an Aadhaar card will not be condition for obtaining any benefits otherwise due to a citizen.

Text of Court’s Interim Orders

Here is the text of the Court’s interim orders to the Union of India:

Having considered the matter, we are of the view that the balance of interest would be best served, till the matter is finally decided by a larger Bench if the Union of India or the UIDA proceed in the following manner:

1. The Union of India shall give wide publicity in the electronic and print media including radio and television networks that it is not mandatory for a citizen to obtain an Aadhaar card;

2. The production of an Aadhaar card will not be condition for obtaining any benefits otherwise due to a citizen;

3. The Unique Identification Number or the Aadhaar card will not be used by the respondents for any purpose other than the PDS Scheme and in particular for the purpose of distribution of foodgrains, etc. and cooking fuel, such as kerosene. The Aadhaar card may also be used for the purpose of the LPG Distribution Scheme;

4. The information about an individual obtained by the Unique Identification Authority of India while issuing an Aadhaar card shall not be used for any other purpose, save as above, except as may be directed by a Court for the purpose of criminal investigation.

Related documents: Full text of Aadhaar case, Writ Petition (Civil) No. 494 of 2012 ( PDF, 25 pages)