Fanaticism and incorrect interpretation of religious scriptures work in tandem. In a thought-provoking event, a ‘devoted’ Christian man has compared the Aadhar card number to the “mark of the beast” from a book of the New Testament named Revelation/Apocalypse, and approached the Supreme Court seeking exemption from Aadhar. A five-judge Constitution bench had to hear this petition on the 19th day of Aadhar’s final hearing.
As opposed to biblical times, contemporary India is moving towards digitization and setting up a unique identification number. Aadhar already has many success stories in its kitty, like uncovering 1,30,000 ghost teachers and 4.4 lac ghost students in the country.
Petitioner John Abraham submitted that his son, a Christian by faith, has been denied college admission for the want of Aadhaar, which he cannot procure because the Book of Revelation [14.1] relates to the Aadhar number as the mark of beast.
The Christian petitioner stated that he was not speaking on behalf of all Christians but himself. Senior counsel Sanjay Hegde, representing Abraham, advanced his submissions in the light of the freedom of conscience, which he differentiates from the freedom of religion, in Article 25. He also drew the attention of the bench to the dissenting opinion of Justice Vivian Bose in the 1951 judgment of the apex court in Krishnan v. State of Madras.
Abraham added, “It is clear that it is impossible for a person to go about their everyday lives without having an Aadhaar (number). Further, it is a biometric ID, with finger print and iris scan data…This is similar to the warning issued in the Book of Revelation. Various interpretations of the book note that the ‘beast’ is symbolic of modern day political power. The Book, in Chapter 14, warns that anyone who receives such a number will face dire consequences.”
“In secular matters, can you say that I will not opt for it? For example, can a person refuse to opt for the Income Tax saying that his conscience does not allow it,” the bench, also comprising justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan asked while examining the petition on Tuesday. The five-judge constitution bench was headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, who pointed out that Article 25 of the Constitution elaborating on the freedom of conscience “stands independent of individual conscience.”
The attorney general, KK Venugopal, commenced the government’s first day’s reply to a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Act today. While arguing that Aadhaar data remains safe, the attorney general said that the Aadhaar data remains secure behind a complex that has 5 feet thick walls. He further pushed for putting up two LCD screens inside the courtroom so that UIDAI CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey can give a “practical presentation” in open court. Venugopal made the government’s stance clear by adding that it was imperative to make Aadhaar mandatory for services. 300 million people in India are poor and they cannot be denied services just because a few people are concerned about privacy.
“Aadhaar or UID which has come to be known as the most advanced and sophisticated infrastructure, may facilitate law-enforcement agencies to take care of the problem of terrorism to some extent and may also be helpful in checking crime and helping investigative agencies in cracking the crimes,” Venugopal said.
While the Supreme Court had earlier passed an interim order staying the linking of Aadhar with mobile phones, bank accounts, and other services except for government subsidies, the final outcome of the case is expected to determine the legality and validity of the unique identification number and whether it will remain mandatory to obtain and link with services or not.