Recently, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) told the Delhi High Court that fingerprints found at a scene of crime cannot be matched against the Aadhaar database to identify a criminal.

 

What is the case?

  • The UIDAI was responding to a query from the Delhi High Court in connection with a 2018 robbery and murder at a jewellery shop in Delhi.
  • The query came after the prosecution sought to know if potential fingerprints and photographs of unknown accused could be matched with the Aadhaar database to identify the culprits.
  • In an order passed in February, the High Court asked the UIDAI to respond whether the Aadhaar Act 2016 permits the same.

 

What did the UIDAI respond?

  • The UIDAI said in its affidavit that sharing or use of biometric information for any use other than the generation of the Aadhaar number, and authentication, is “impermissible”. Section 29 of the Aadhar Act places restrictions on sharing information collected or created under the Act.
  • The UIDAI also referred to regulation 3 of the Aadhaar Act, which says “core biometric information collected by the Authority under the Act shall not be shared with anyone for any reason whatsoever”.
  • The UIDAI also added that it does not have the technology to match fingerprints etc found at the scene of a crime with those available on its database.
  • The UIDAI added that the biometrics information is only used for de-duplication of residents and to ensure uniqueness of Aadhaar number.
  • The UIDAI submitted that as per the mandate of the Aadhaar Act and the direction of the Supreme Court, such information cannot be provided without giving an opportunity of hearing to the Aadhaar cardholder in question.

 

Exceptions i.e. when Information can be revealed

Certain provisions of the Aadhar Act, 2016 allow for sharing the information in the following two scenarios –

    • In the interest of national security, a Joint Secretary in the Central Government may issue a direction for revealing, (i) Aadhaar number, (ii) biometric information (iris scan, finger print and other biological attributes specified by regulations), (iii) demographic information, and (iv) photograph. Such a decision will be reviewed by an Oversight Committee and will be valid for six months.
    • On the order of a court, only (i) an individual’s Aadhaar number, (ii) photograph, and (iii) demographic information, may be revealed.

 

About the ‘Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI)’

  • The Unique Identification Authority of India is a statutory authority established under the provisions of Aadhaar Act 2016.
  • UIDAI was created to issue a 12-digit Unique Identification numbers (UID), named as “Aadhaar”, to all residents of India.
  • Under the Aadhaar Act 2016, UIDAI is responsible for –
      • Aadhaar enrolment and authentication,
      • Operation and management of all stages of Aadhaar life cycle,
      • Developing the policy, procedure, and system for issuing Aadhaar numbers to individuals
      • Perform authentication of identity information and of records of individuals.
  • As of October 2021, the Authority had issued 68 crore Aadhaar numbers to the residents of India.
  • Nodal Ministry – Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).