Delhi HC Seeks UIDAI Response On Claims Of Tracing Missing Children Through Aadhaar Biometrics

Delhi HC Seeks UIDAI Response On Claims Of Tracing Missing Children Through Aadhaar Biometrics

UIDAI cites technical, legal hurdles in using its biometric data to identify dead

While an advertisement issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) shows how a missing girl was reunited with his family through her Aadhaar biometrics, the authority has told the Delhi High Court that its biometric data cannot be used for identification of dead bodies due to reasons ranging from legal to technical with the biometric data collected by it being unfit for forensic purposes.

The authority said so in a counter-affidavit filed before the Delhi High Court in response to a PIL moved by advocate Amit Sahni seeking directions to the Centre and all the states to mandatorily scan the biometrics of the unidentified dead bodies and match it with pre-existed biometrics/Aadhaar details so that the body can be handed over to the family.

A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V Kameswar Rao, however, asked the authority to also file its response to the additional documents placed on record by Sahni, including media reports of UIDAI, claiming that it has traced 500 missing children through Aadhaar etc.

Sahni has been stressing that when UIDAI claims that it has traced missing children through Aadhaar biometrics, why could not the unidentified bodies be identified by using biometrics data and handed to the families concerned for last rites.

He asked, "What will happen if a person goes missing from one state and his body is found in other state? How will the family ever get to know about it? Why can Aadhaar biometrics not be used to identify such bodies and intimate the families?"

The matter is now posted for April 23.

Meanwhile, the UIDAI said in its counter that "it does not collect biometric information i.e. Iris scan and fingerprint based on technology, standards or procedure suitable for forensic purposes and therefore using the bio metric data for the purpose of identification of dead bodies may not be technologically feasible".

It also opposed the PIL on the very object of the Act as it said, "The object of passing of Aadhaar (targeted delivery of financial and other subsidies benefits and services) Act by the Parliament was for providing good governance efficient, transparent and targeted delivery of subsidies, benefits and services and other social schemes, the expenditure for which is incurred from the consolidated fund of India to individuals residing in India through assigning of Unique Identity numbers to such individuals and for matters connected therewith and incidental thereto and not for forensic or other purposes".

It also submitted that allowing the prayers made in the PIL would not only be contrary to the Aadhaar Act but would also be contrary to the five-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court wherein directions by the Bombay High Court for using Aadhaar for forensic purpose was quashed and it was held that no core biometric information which includes thumb impressions can be directed to be shared with anyone whatsoever or used for any purpose other than that permitted in the Aadhaar Act.

"The Aadhaar Act read with the Aadhaar regulations provide several safeguards in the form of security and confidentiality of information, restrictions on sharing information, disclosure of certain information and offences and penalties for breach of the act or regulations," it said while adding that the prayers made in the PIL were strictly in the realm of policy and not a matter for judicial review.

The authority relied on Section 29 of the Aadhaar Act to say that the biometric information is unique to an individual and therefore, is sensitive information and needs to be protected to thwart any possibility of misuse.

The UIDAI ruled out its biometric data for random matching purposes as it said, "The Aadhaar technology only permits biometric authentication which are done on a 1:1 basis for which it is necessary to have the Aadhaar number of an individual".

"For Aadhaar based authentication in all cases, it is essential but that both the 'live- biometric' and the Aadhaa number is made available for proper response. The technological architecture of UIDAI or its mandate for Aadhaar based authentication does not allow for any instance of 1:1 matching (wherein fingerprints including latent and chance fingerprints are matched against the other fingerprints in the UIDAI database) except for generation of Aadhaar number where the biometric information has been collected in accordance with the technically laid down procedure."

"Therefore, 1:N search of an unidentified body with no Aadhaar number, no demographic details and only partial or latent biometrics as requested by the petitioner is beyond the mandate and scope of UIDAI and technological unfeasible," said the authority.