NDA's Aadhaar 'compulsory' weapon to 'disempower' people: Rahul Gandhi

"UPA's Aadhaar = A voluntary instrument to empower citizens. "NDA's Aadhaar = A compulsory weapon to disempower citizens," Rahul tweeted. Photograph:( Reuters )

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Jan 18, 2018, 02.28 AM (IST)

Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday attacked the NDA government over the Aadhaar scheme, dubbing it as a compulsory weapon to "disempower" citizens.

"UPA's Aadhaar = A voluntary instrument to empower citizens.
"NDA's Aadhaar = A compulsory weapon to disempower citizens," he tweeted.

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Rahul Gandhi attack on NDA comes on a day when a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra began hearing a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the government's flagship Aadhaar programme and its enabling Act of 2016.

The Congress government, which introduced Aadhaar, is opposing the government's stand that it should be compulsory for receiving the benefits of state-sponsored welfare schemes.

Concerns have been voiced about the massive data collection process under Aadhaar, which has information about more than a billion Indians, over fears that these could be used for identity theft and surveillance by the government. 

The Supreme Court was told that Aadhaar was "an electronic leash" to which every resident of India was tethered, and was violative of the Constitution as it reduces the recognition of an individual to a number.

Asserting that Aadhaar reduces the individual identity to a numerical, the five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra was told the "government has rolled out a little-understood programme that seeks to tether every resident of India to an electronic leash".

The court was told this by the senior counsel Shyam Divan as the constitution bench, also comprising Justice AK Sikri, Justice AK Khanwilkar, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Ashok Bhushan, commenced hearing on a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhaar Act on the grounds of its being violative of the right to privacy.

"If the Aadhaar Act and programme is allowed to operate unimpeded it will hollow out the Constitution, particularly the great rights and liberties it assures to citizens," said Divan appearing for the petitioners challenging Aadhaar Act.

Telling the constitution bench that "A People`s Constitution will transform into a State Constitution", Divan said that the Aadhaar "electronic leash" is "connected to a central data base that is designed to track transactions across the life of the citizen".

Brushing aside the Centre`s contention that challenge to Aadhaar was "elitist", Divan said the question is "whether the Constitution of India allows the State to embrace this new programme or whether the Constitution repudiates this giant electronic mesh".

He referred to the judgment of the nine-judge constitution bench which had upheld the right to privacy and said that challenge to Aadhaar was not elitist.

The hearing will continue on Thursday.

(With PTI inputs)