A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court of India has been hearing arguments in 27 Aadhaar petitions since January this year. In May, the bench had reserved its judgement on the hearings, which lasted for four months. Now, it is expected to pronounce its verdict on Wednesday.
It's a complicated issue and if you've not been following it carefully from the beginning, it's easy to lose track of what's been happening. We have an explainer that tells you why Aadhaar is controversial and what the court is deciding tomorrow, but if you're curious about the details of the case, we have explained the highlights of the petitions before the court here.
The court is hearing the petition by Justice KS Puttaswamy, a retired judge of the Karnataka High Court, and 26 other petitioners. A battery of lawyers is involved on both sides, but the fundamental issues come down to privacy, surveillance, data protection, consent and legislative process.
Senior Counsel Shyam Divan, appearing for the petitioners, has also raised the point of retrospectivity in the court—whether the UIDAI's rollout was in breach of privacy before 2016, when the Aadhaar Act was passed.
The court first constituted a nine-judge bench to determine whether privacy is a constitutionally protected value. It ruled in favour of this in August 2017. Now, the five-member bench has to see whether Aadhaar infringes the right to privacy.
Petitioners have argued that the data collected for Aadhaar was not handled properly, since UIDAI was using numerous third parties to do so.
The petitioners have also claimed that the Aadhaar project is infrastructure for a surveillance state. This is something that has been borne out in media reports as well. For example, HuffPost India showed how Andhra Pradesh has used Aadhaar and census data to set up a surveillance infrastructure.
On the issue of consent, the argument is that by making Aadhaar mandatory for basic services such as benefits, and everyday requirements such as banking and phone connections, people were not in a position to refuse consent at all.
Finally, the petitioners have also questioned passing the Aadhaar Act as a money bill, which did not have to be voted upon in the Rajya Sabha.
The right to privacy, as upheld by the Supreme Court in August 2017, is going to be particularly important in the case. The government has to protect the fundamental rights of citizens, and the complaint against Aadhaar also brings up the fact that the State has acted in a way which infringes on this right.