Aadhaar-enabled Biometric Attendance System for Railway Staff is unconstitutional: AIRF
AIRF writes to Railway Board “Use of Biometric Attendance System in the Railways, to authenticate an individual for attendance, as per Aadhaar Act, 2016, is totally unconstitutional and violates Aadhaar Act, 2016, against the judgement of Hon’ble Supreme Court and blatant attack on the privacy of the Railway Employees.”
All India Railwaymen’s Federation
Dated: January 10, 2020
The Member Staff,
Sub: Aadhaar-enabled Biometric Attendance System for Railway Staff
Aadhaar-enabled Biometric Attendance System(AEBAS) was introduced in the Railways vide Office Order No.08 of 2014 dated 01.12.2014 of the Railway Board.
In the year 2016, Ministry of Law and Justice got Aadhaar Act, 2016, enacted in the Parliament, which was notified on March 26, 2016. Aadhaar Act, 2016 clearly states that identity of an individual through Aadhaar can only be established in case of receipt of subsidy and other benefit of services which are being provided by the Government. Meanwhile Hon’ble Supreme Court in its landmark judgement on Aadhaar Act, 2016, delivered on 26th September, 2018, has categorically struck down Section 57 of Aadhaar Act, 2016, which says that, “Nothing in the Act shall prevent the use of Aadhaar for establishing the identity of an individual for any purpose whether by the state or anybody, corporate or person”. In view of the Aadhaar Act, 2016 and Hon’ble Supreme Court’s judgement, the following points are highlighted:-
(i) AEBAS was introduced in the year 2014 in the Indian Railways and the system has not been revised after implementation of Aadhaar Act, 2016 and the judgement of Hon’ble Supreme Court thereafter in September 26, 2018.
(ii) Section 8(2) of the Aadhaar Act, 2016 made it mandatory to obtain the consent of an individual before collecting his identity information for the purposes of authentication. In this connection, it is to be pointed out that, getting consent of the employee for Biometric Attendance, as per Aadhaar Act, 2016, is totally against the Act, which says that, authentication, as per Aadhaar Act, 2016, is only for welfare scheme.
(iii) An additional step has been introduced in the Biometric Machines which seeks consent of the Railway Employees and demographic locations before Biometric Attendance is marked, making marking of attendance cumbersome and the employees are made to wait in long queues to mark their attendance on Biometric Machines.
(iv) Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act, 2016 says that, “Nothing contained in this Act shall prevent the use of Aadhaar number for establishing the identity of an individual for any purpose, whether by the State or anybody Corporate or Person, pursuant to any law for the time, being in force or any contract to this effect. As per Aadhaar Act, this is the only section where anybody, Corporate or Person can use Biometric for authentication, but Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act, 2016 has been declared void and unconstitutional by Hon’ble Supreme Court in its judgement in September 2018.
(v) Since Biometric Machines belong to the Third Party, and having software developed and modified by the manufacturer and these machines are connected with the internet, thus make data vulnerable for misuse. Consent of the Railway Employees to use their Aadhaar Number and Biometrics on Third Party’s entity for attendance has put personal data (Biometric and Aadhar Number) of Railway Employees at severe risk in the hands of hackers, who can peep into various Aadhaar linker services of an individual, such as Bank Accounts, Income Tax details and other welfare services linked with the Aadhaar Card.
“Classic example of leakage of Aadhaar linked data has been witnessed in the case of Shri R.S. Sharma(TRAI Chairman and Former Director General of UIDAI(Aadhaar) by the country, in whose case leakage of Aadhar Number made hackers to sneak into 14 services being used by him, that include his Bank Accounts, PAN details and other details, including his family members”.
Taking consent from the Railway Employees before usage of Biometric and Aadhar Number, as per Aadhaar Act, 2016, virtually means that, Railways will not take any responsibility if Aadhar or Biometrics of the Railway Employees are misused or in case of fraudulent transaction happens with Aadhaar linked Bank Accounts.
It is evident that, use of Biometric Attendance System in the Railways, to authenticate an individual for attendance, as per Aadhaar Act, 2016, is totally unconstitutional and violates Aadhaar Act, 2016, against the judgement of Hon’ble Supreme Court and blatant attack on the privacy of the Railway Employees.
AIRF, therefore, is of the considered opinion that the above-mentioned issues be given thorough consideration and remedial action taken urgently.
(Shiva Gopal Mishra)
Copy to: General Secretaries, all affiliated unions – for information.