India’s Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the validity of a giant and controversial government program to collect and store the biometric data of its billion-plus citizens, but placed new limits on how the data can be used and stored.
A five-judge bench ruled that while the government’s flagship Aadhaar program has huge benefits in delivering welfare efficiently, biometric data can no longer be used by private entities such as banks or mobile phone operators for authentication purposes, curbing the program’s ambitious scope as a universal ID.
“Aadhaar empowers the marginalized section of the society and gives them an identity,” Justice Arjan Kumar Sikri said in delivering the 1,448-page verdict.
The judgment also noted, however, that “there needs to be balancing of two competing fundamental rights, right to privacy on one hand, and right to food, shelter, and employment on the other hand.”
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