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Date: 31/01/2019

To,

Shri Venkaiah Naidu,


Vice-President of India and Chairperson, Rajya Sabha

Shri Narendra Modi,


Prime Minister of India

CC: All party leaders in the Rajya Sabha

Subject: Letter by Concerned Citizens on the Aadhaar Amendments and DNA Bill

Dear Sir,

During the Winter Session of Parliament which concluded on 9th January 2019, the Aadhaar
and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018 [referred to herein as the Aadhaar Amendment Bill]
and the ​DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2018 [referred to herein as the
DNA Bill] were passed by the Lok Sabha. As worried citizens, we are writing to express our
deep disquiet over the disregard for Constitutional processes with respect to these far-reaching
legislations that affect the welfare and privacy of the people of India. We are shocked at
suggestions that the government is likely to break from tradition and go beyond passing a Vote
on Account in the upcoming Budget Session by listing the aforementioned bills among others for
the final session of this Parliament.

The agencies responsible for the drafting of these Bills appear to neither appreciate nor respect
the due democratic process that is to be followed in such cases. This attitude is reflected in the
absence of a pre-legislative process via public consultation of these bills before their
introduction and the refusal in the Lok Sabha of allowing scrutiny by the relevant Parliamentary
Standing Committees. These BIlls should be withdrawn and a data protection law should be
enacted instead.

Though DNA Bill begins with a statement that it is for the purposes of ‘certain categories’ of
persons, all within the realm of criminal law and procedure, text of the Bill goes much further,
beyond criminal law and puts every person who may have a DNA analysis or test or any other
DNA procedure on the database. It is to be used in matters which include offences in the Penal
Code ‘where DNA testing is useful for investigation of offences’, and goes on to what are called
‘special laws’ such as the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, the Atrocities
Act of 1989, the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971, among others. Nothing is
specified about whose DNA will be collected, the purpose for which it may be used, and how
long it will be kept. The uses of the databases is extended to what are called ‘civil disputes’,
including paternity and maternity, issues relating to ‘pedigree’, ‘immigration and emigration’,
transplantation of organs and ‘issues relating to the establishment of individual identity’. As all
other biometrics falter, as further elaborated below, it seems that the ​use of DNA to establish
identity​ is being brought in through this Bill.

Despite widespread failure (like the creation of “​fake​” Aadhaar numbers), and continued
criticism from civil society members about the Aadhaar project (evidenced by previous Letters
of Concern dated ​2010 and ​2015​) as well as on the subject of data protection (​Letter of Concern
dated July 2018​), the government has continued to proliferate the use of the Aadhaar beyond
the stated intent of the project. We now find the government subverting the orders of the
honourable Supreme Court vide its judgment in ​Justice (retd.) K.S. Puttaswamy vs Union of
India (the 2018 Aadhaar judgment) and in ​Justice (retd.) K.S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India (the
2017 Privacy judgment).

The Aadhaar Amendment Bill specifically seeks to allow private entities continued use of the
Aadhaar number as well as Aadhaar-based authentication / eKYC. The Aadhaar judgment of
the Supreme Court took specific exception to such use and struck down those parts (Section
57) of the ​Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, benefits and services)
Act, 2016, [the Aadhaar Act]. This prevents commercial applications built off Aadhaar and put
checks on creation of 360 degree surveillance over people.

The Aadhaar Amendment Bill includes a clause that makes Aadhaar-based authentication
mandatory, explicitly, “if such authentication is required by a law made by Parliament” (Clause
5(7)). This enabling provision is then given its full meaning in the amendments proposed to the
Telegraph Act (Clause 24) and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (Clause 25), which
seek to allow the continued use of Aadhaar-based e-KYC authentication by private entities for
mobile and banking services, respectively. Again, the Aadhaar judgment explicitly prohibits the
use of Aadhaar-based authentication for both these services.

Meanwhile, the government has failed to enact a comprehensive data protection regime that
would protect individuals. It has failed to provide any redressal and compensation even as the
most vulnerable citizens have lost their lives, ​cut off from social security if they did not link
Aadhaar to their existing IDs. In the latter respect, both ​Shri Arun Jaitley and ​Shri Ravi Shankar
Prasad have been misleading the public and MPs about shrinkage of welfare programmes as
“savings” generated via linking Aadhaar to various schemes. They continue to repeat the
fictitious claim that such savings now total INR 90,000 crore - a figure that has been proven
false and ​unsubstantiated by economists and, worse, not taking into account the cost incurred in
propagating the Aadhaar project. In effect, it appears that the government is desperately trying
to preserve the utility of the Aadhaar project, whereas it would appear that the project has failed
to serve its stated purpose.

In fact, if any amendment is to be made to the Aadhaar Act, it should be to Section 7 to disallow
the use of Aadhaar and biometric authentication for disbursements of social benefits. This is the
fundamental issue with Aadhaar that is affecting the poor. While ​numerous activists have been
highlighting this for sometime now, ​media reports during the ​recent state elections further
corroborate this. Ironically, there is now talk that even the ​voter ID will have to be linked to
Aadhaar​. This is something that has the potential to ​disrupt our ​democracy itself and should not
be allowed.

We urge that both these Bills are allowed sufficient scrutiny by the Rajya Sabha referring them
for study by the appropriate Parliamentary committee, allowing expert testimony and citizen
inputs.

With regards,
(list of signatories follows)