Aadhaar Act must be amended to give remedies, says Justice Abhay Oka

Pune, 19 Nov: Justice Abhay Oka of the Supreme Court on Saturday said the Aadhaar Act must be amended to provide remedies to those who are deprived of the important document and to make it “citizen-centric”.
He was speaking at a seminar on ‘Dispute Resolution Mechanism in Telecom, Broadcasting and Cyber-Sector Issue, Approach and Way Forward’ organized by Telecom Dispute Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT).
Justice Oka rued the lack of “legal literacy” among the educated class and said people “silently suffer injustice” as they do not avail remedies for problems.
In 2019, the appellate jurisdiction relating to the Aadhaar mechanism was assigned to the TDSAT.
“The Aadhaar Act, 2016 provides for securing the confidentiality of the information supplied by the citizens to the authority. When one applies for the Aadhaar card, one needs to supply various information and data. So the Act provides for securing the confidentiality of the information,” said Justice Oka.
There are restrictions on sharing information, and section 33E of the Act provides for penal action rather than a penalty, he said, adding the role of the adjudicating authority comes into the picture when any person or authority commits a breach of various provisions of the Act.
“The aggrieved person has to approach the TDSAT but these are neglected provisions. Unfortunately, no one is accessing the remedies under the Act,” he said, adding his travel across various districts as executive chairperson of the legal service authority revealed there were several grievances regarding breach of confidentiality and sharing of data.
“I came across a case in 2018 (when Aadhaar card were being linked to bank accounts) linking to the bank account was going on) in which an an old lady whose arm was amputated approached me. She was told she cannot get an Aadhaar card as impressions of all 10 fingers are needed,” he said.
Justice Oka said he called a professor of a law college and sought the help of their para-legal volunteers who within two days brought the officials and machines to her doorstep and she received her card.
“When we had a camp in one of the Naxalite-affected areas in Chandrapur district, we met some citizens who told us Aadhaar card personnel were seeking several documents. I feel the Act should be amended and remedy should be provided for those citizens who are deprived of Aadhaar card,” the SC judge said.
“All technical objections raised by the authorities while refusing you the Aadhaar card, such appeals can come to the tribunal. So I think the Act needs amendment. It should be made more citizen-centric,” he added.
Justice Oka also said some of the provisions of the IT Act, though important, are being neglected.
“One such provision provides payment for penalties and compensation for damage to the computer system and computer network. For example, if someone accesses a computer system, computer network or resource without permission of the owner, the person who does that is liable to pay compensation. Even if a person contaminates a computer system with a virus, the person is liable to pay damages,” he said.
He said the adjudicating authority is appointed to decide whether any person has violated any provision of the IT Act and has the power to impose a penalty of up to Rs 5 crore.
“Unfortunately, in our country lack of legal literacy is a very serious issue and when we talk of legal literacy, we do not refer to the people in the villages. I am referring to the very educated people who simply lack knowledge of the law,” he said.
“There are so many important provisions under the IT Act. Whenever a breach is committed by somebody, go to the authority to seek compensation. But hardly anyone takes recourse to this,” Justice Oka said.
He said citizens are unaware of remedies provided by law, nor do thy exercise their right under statutes, in the process “silently suffering injustice”.
He also spoke on docket explosion (term used to denote delay in disposal of cases). (PTI)