Aadhaar is the subject of several rulings by the Supreme Court of India. On 23 September 2013, the Supreme Court issued an interim order saying that "no person should suffer for not getting Aadhaar", adding that the government cannot deny a service to a resident who does not possess Aadhaar, as it is voluntary and not mandatory. The court also limited the scope of the programme and reaffirmed the voluntary nature of the identity number in other rulings. On 24 August 2017 the Indian Supreme Court delivered a landmark verdict affirming the right to privacy as a fundamental right, overruling previous judgments on the issue.A five-judge constitutional bench of the Supreme Court heard various cases relating to the validity of Aadhaar on various grounds including privacy, surveillance, and exclusion from welfare benefits. On 9 January 2017 the five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court of India reserved its judgement on the interim relief sought by petitions to extend the deadline making Aadhaar mandatory for everything from bank accounts to mobile services. The final hearing began on 17 January 2018. In September 2018, the top court upheld the validity of the Aadhaar system. In the September 2018 judgment, the Supreme Court nevertheless stipulated that the Aadhaar card is not mandatory for opening bank accounts, getting a mobile number, or being admitted to a school. Some civil liberty groups such as the Citizens Forum for Civil Liberties and the Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF) have also opposed the project over privacy concerns.
Despite the validity of Aadhaar being challenged in the court, the central government has pushed citizens to link their Aadhaar numbers with a host of services, including mobile SIM cards, bank accounts, the Employees' Provident Fund Organisation, and a large number of welfare schemes including but not limited to the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the Public Distribution System, and old age pensions. In 2017, reports suggested that HIV patients were being forced to discontinue treatment for fear of identity breach as access to the treatment has become contingent on producing Aadhaar.
The UIDAI is mandated to assign a 12-digit unique identification (UID) number (termed "Aadhaar") to all the residents of India. The implementation of the UID scheme entails generation and assignment of UIDs to residents; defining mechanisms and processes for interlinking UIDs with partner databases; operation and management of all stages of the UID life cycle; framing policies and procedures for updating mechanism and defining usage and applicability of UIDs for delivery of various services, among others. The number is linked to the resident's basic demographic and biometric information such as a photograph, ten fingerprints and two iris scans, which are stored in a centralised database.
Starting with the issuing of the first UID in September 2010, the UIDAI has been aiming to issue an Aadhaar number to all the residents ensuring that it is robust enough to eliminate duplicate and fake identities, and that the number can be verified and authenticated in an easy and cost-effective way online anywhere, anytime. In a notification dated 16 December 2010 the Government of India indicated that it would recognise a letter issued by the UIDAI containing details of name, address, and Aadhaar number, as an official, valid document. Aadhaar is not intended to replace any existing identity cards, nor does it constitute proof of citizenship. Aadhaar neither confers citizenship nor guarantees rights, benefits, or entitlements. Aadhaar is a random number that never starts with a 0 or 1, and is not loaded with profiling or intelligence that would make it insusceptible to fraud or theft, and thus provides a measure of privacy in this regard. The unique ID also qualifies as a valid ID while availing various government services such as a LPG connection, a subsidised ration, kerosene from the PDS, or benefits under NSAP or pension schemes, e-sign, a digital locker, a Universal Account Number (UAN) under EPFO, and some other services such as a SIM card or opening a bank account. According to the UIDAI website, any Aadhaar holder or service provider can verify the genuineness of an Aadhaar number through a user-friendly service of UIDAI called the Aadhaar Verification Service (AVS), which is available on its website. Also, a resident already enrolled under the National Population Register is not required to enrol again for Aadhaar.
The Rangarajan Commission set up to revamp the statistical system in India in 2000 recommended under the Socio-economic statistics chapter the setting up of a centralised database of citizens in India. The Commission submitted its report to the Government in August 2001 and in its analysis noted under para 9.2.26. Many developed countries and an increasing number of developing countries, including China, have databases of their citizens while also providing for each adult individual citizen of the country a unique identification number. Such a unique identification number assigned to a citizen would be a proof of his/her identity for a variety of purposes. The major advantage is that all this can be taken care of by simply producing citizen identity card as a proof of individual identity. Presently, there are different kinds of cards and means of establishing identity in India, such as electoral identity card, income-tax PAN card, passport, ration card, driving licence, birth, and education certificates, etc. However, none of the systems are equipped to handle a population figure that exceeds more than one billion in India. So far there has not been any attempt whatsoever to standardise a format of citizen's database, which can link the information available for each citizen from different sources and analyse this according to the needs and project a comprehensive picture of the human resources in the country." Further, the Commission made the specific recommendation under para 9.2.27 made the following observations: 9.2.27 Taking note of the initiative taken by the Ministry of Home Affairs for issuing national identification cards to the citizens, the Commission concludes that:A centralised database of the citizens of the country with a system of issuing a unique identification number/card has several potential benefits to its citizens and will improve the efficiency of administration. The project, if implemented, will have obvious benefits to the statistical system.
On 7 February 2012 the UIDAI launched an online verification system for Aadhaar numbers. Using the system, banks, telecom companies and government departments could enter an Aadhaar number and verify if the person was a resident of India.
In late November 2012 a former Karnataka High Court judge, K. S. Puttaswamy, and a lawyer, Parvesh Khanna, filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against the government in the Supreme Court of India. They contended that the government was implementing the project without any legislative backing. They pointed out that the National Identification Authority of India Bill 2010, which had been introduced in the Rajya Sabha, was still pending. They further said that since the UIDAI was proceeding only on the basis of an executive order issued on 28 January 2009, it could not collect biometric data of citizens as it would be a violation of privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution. In December 2011 the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance, led by Yashwant Sinha, rejected the National Identification Authority of India Bill 2010 and suggested modifications. It termed the project "unethical and violative of Parliament's prerogatives". On 23 September 2013 the Supreme Court issued an interim order saying that the government could not deny a service to anyone who did not possess Aadhaar, as the identity number was voluntary.
In July 2014 Aadhaar-enabled biometric attendance systems were introduced in government offices. The system was introduced to check late arrival and absenteeism of government employees. The public could see the daily in and out of employees on the website attendance.gov.in. In October 2014 the website was closed to the public but as of 24 March 2016 is again active and open to public access. The employees use the last four digits (last eight digits for government employee registering as of August 2016) of their Aadhaar number and their fingerprints, for authentication.
In November 2014 it was reported that the Ministry for External Affairs was considering making Aadhaar a mandatory requirement for passport holders. In February 2015 it was reported that people with an Aadhaar number would get their passports issued within 10 days, as it sped up the verification process by making it easier to check if an applicant had any criminal records in the National Crime Records Bureau database. In May 2015, it was announced that the Ministry of External Affairs was testing the linking of passports to the Aadhaar database.
In October 2014 the Department of Electronics and Information Technology said that they were considering linking Aadhaar to SIM cards. In November 2014 the Department of Telecom asked all telecom operators to collect Aadhaar from all new applicants of SIM cards. On 4 March 2015 a pilot project was launched allowing Aadhaar-linked SIM cards to be sold in some cities. The purchaser could activate the SIM at the time of purchase by submitting his Aadhaar number and pressing his fingerprints on a machine. It is part of the Digital India plan. The Digital India project aims to provide all government services to citizens electronically and is expected to be completed by 2018.
In July 2014 the Employees' Provident Fund Organisation of India (EPFO) began linking provident fund accounts with Aadhaar numbers. In November 2014 the EPFO became a UIDAI registrar and began issuing Aadhaar number to provident fund subscribers. In December 2014 Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya clarified that an Aadhaar number was not necessary for any provident fund transaction. 2b1af7f3a8