Lawyer Shyam Divan said Aadhaar, the 12-digit unique identity number, was an instrument that "enabled the state to profile its citizens, track their movements and affect their social behaviour".
Just before the end of the hearing, he said that if Aadhaar Act is upheld, then in the alternative, no citizen should be deprived of any right or benefit for lack of an Aadhaar card. "Where every basic facility is linked to Aadhaar and one can not live in society without an Aadhaar number, the switching off of Aadhaar completely destroys the individual", Divan said. "This unique biometric identification scheme is akin to a switch the State can use to cause a citizen's civil death", he said in the opening statements of his final arguments.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday was told that Aadhaar was "an electronic leash" to which every resident of India was tethered, and was violative of the Constitution as it reduces the recognition of an individual to a number.
Some of the issues posed by the petitioners to the court are: does the Constitution of India sanction the creation of a surveillance state; does an individual's personal autonomy extend to biometrics covering finger prints and iris scans; is the collection of biometric information of citizens backed by the rule of law?
The Constitution bench was set up on 13 December after repeated attempts by petitioners for an early hearing on the issue of mandatory Aadhaar linking with bank accounts, mobile phone numbers and other services.
Moreover, over three crore citizens have not been able to register their biometric data, he said and asked how can the government exclude such a big part of the population who could not be registered without any fault on their part, from availing benefits. A people's Constitution would turn into a state Constitution because of the mass surveillance it would entrench, he said. Divan quipped that the United States was not building up a profile as it is in the case for Aadhaar. "The Constitution firmly repudiates Aadhaar and it must do so in order to preserve itself, its abiding values, its foundational morality and to protect citizens from the advent of an all-seeing, intrusive state that recognises not the individual, but a number", Divan said.
"The Constitution of India is not a charter of servitude".
A plea to this effect led to a larger debate on the right to privacy itself that was settled in July previous year with a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court maintaining that the right to privacy is a fundamental right. "Does the Constitution allow the state to have so much power?"
The top court had on December 15 past year extended till March 31 the deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar with various services and welfare schemes of all ministries and departments of the Centre, states and union territories.
The A five-judge Constitution Bench will be hearing petitions challenging the validity of Aadhaar card and its mandatory linkage with several services along with other important cases.