One of the reliefs sought by the petitioners in the Constitutional Challenge to the Aadhaar Scheme was an OPT-OUT option for both the new enrollments, as well as those who had enrolled and wanted to exit the scheme. Although the courts had always said that Aadhaar was voluntary but the way the government went about implementing the scheme, Aadhaar turned out to be a mandatory lifetime commitment because there is no opt-out option in the Aadhaar Act, which made consent irrevocable and deprived individuals the ability to make decisions about their life. In Meghalaya, many who had been coerced into enrolling for Aadhaar wanted for either ‘religious’ or for ‘civil liberties’ reasons wanted to exit from Aadhaar database. Helped by Meghalaya People’s Committee on Aadhaar, many of them sent OPT-OUT letters to UIDAI authority.
With obvious non-response of UIDAI, MPCA filed affidavits in the court asking for specific opt-out option in Aadhaar Scheme. And this is what the Majority Opinion authored by Justice AK Sikri, which has concurrence of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justice AM Khanwilkar, said:
Para 373 of the Majority Judgement
There is yet another angle from which the matter can be looked into. In any case, when the Aadhaar scheme/project under the Act has been saved from the challenge to its constitutionality, we see no reason to invalidate the enrolments which were made prior to the passing of this Act as it would lead to unnecessary burden and exercise of enrolling these persons all over again. Instead the problem can be solved by eliciting ‘consent’ of all those persons who were enrolled prior to the passing of the Act. Since we have held that enrolment is voluntary in nature, those who specifically refuse to give the consent, they would be allowed to exit from Aadhaar scheme. After all, by getting Aadhaar card, an individual so enrolled is getting a form of identity card. It would still be open to such an individual to make use of the said Aadhaar number or not. Those persons who need to avail any subsidy, benefit or service would need Aadhaar in any case. It would not be proper to cancel their Aadhaar cards. If direction is given to invalidate all those enrolments which were made prior to 2016 then such persons will have to undergo the rigours of getting themselves enrolled all over again. On the other hand, those who do not get any benefit of the nature prescribed under Section 7 of the Act, it would always be open for them not to make use of Aadhaar card or to make use of this card in a limited sense, namely, showing it as a proof of their identity, without undergoing any authentication process. Therefore, to a large extent, it does not harm this later category as well…
Page 556 of the Majority Judgement
(3) Whether children can be brought within the sweep of Sections 7 and 8 of the Aadhaar Act?
(a) For the enrolment of children under the Aadhaar Act, it would be essential to have the consent of their parents/guardian.
(b) On attaining the age of majority, such children who are enrolled under Aadhaar with the consent of their parents, shall be given the option to exit from the Aadhaar project if they so choose in case they do not intend to avail the benefits of the scheme.
Although this OPT-OUT at one level is problematic forcing the citizens to forgo all their welfare benefits, still the idea that one can choose to live without a Mandatory Numbering system is something to be worked with while exploring other ways to fence in the mandatory monster called Aadhaar.
Now equipped with The Supreme Court judgement, Meghalaya People’s Committee on Aadhaar would be sending follow up OPT OUT letters to UIDAI. Maybe you Non Meghalayans should also do it.
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