Aadhaar authentication of prisoners and jail visitors
Prisoners and visitors in the country’s more than 1,300 jails may be required to undertake Aadhaar authentication, a Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) initiative to guarantee the security of detainees and combat identity fraud.
What is the new initiative introduced in the Prisons?
- Initiative: The MHA has proposed that both convicts and visitors utilize Aadhaar verification. This entails integrating Aadhaar details into prison records to improve custodial security.
- Objective: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) intends to improve inmate security and combat identity fraud in over 1,300 institutions around the country.
- Orders Passed: The MHA has communicated with the states and union territories, pressing them to implement Aadhaar authentication for inmates and visitors.
- Authorization via Notification: The MHA has issued a notice authorizing the Prison Department to do Aadhaar authentication. The provisions of the Aadhaar Authentication for Good Governance (Social Welfare, Innovation, Knowledge) Rules 2020 govern this.
- SOP: The National Informatics Centre (NIC)/ePrisons has created a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the Aadhaar linking/authentication of prisoners and their visitors.
- Voluntary Basis: While the MHA encourages Aadhaar authentication, the process is reported to be entirely voluntary. States and UTs are expected to follow the Centre’s relevant guidelines.
What are the fundamental rights denied while bringing in the initiative?
- Right to Privacy: The usage of Aadhaar authentication entails the use of biometric data and personal information. Critics believe that this could violate people’s right to privacy since they may be uncomfortable with the government gathering and using such sensitive information.
- Right to Liberty: Individuals may feel confined or monitored as a result of the necessary authentication process, which could be interpreted as a potential breach of the right to liberty.
- Personal Liberty and Dignity (Article 21): Even if consensual, the authentication procedure may be regarded as coercive, compromising an individual’s liberty and dignity.
- Freedom of Movement (Article 19(1)(d)): The authentication process, particularly if made mandatory for visitors, may restrict freedom of movement without justification, harming their ability to freely visit inmates.
- Right Against Self-Incrimination (Article 20(3)): The authentication process could potentially be viewed as a form of self-incrimination, especially if individuals are compelled to provide biometric data against their will.
What are the positive and negative impacts of imposing this rule?
- Positive Impacts
- Increased Security: Aadhaar authentication can improve jail security by assuring correct identification of inmates and visitors, lowering the likelihood of security breaches.
- Identity Fraud Prevention: The program can help to prevent identity fraud while also protecting the integrity of jail records and the wider judicial system.
- Aadhaar verification might streamline record administration, making it more effective and decreasing the strain on jail officials in identifying and managing inmates.
- Aadhaar Benefits Delivery: The project is aligned to ensure that convicts receive the Aadhaar-related benefits to which they are entitled, thereby contributing to a more transparent and accountable system.
- Negative Impacts:
- Privacy concerns: The collecting and use of biometric data for authentication may raise privacy concerns, potentially infringing on the fundamental right to privacy.
- Voluntariness: While the procedure is supposed to be optional, there may be issues regarding the extent to which individuals feel pushed to participate, perhaps limiting their freedom of choice.
- Danger of Misuse: The centralized storage of sensitive biometric information increases the danger of misuse, hacking, or illegal access, putting people’s personal information at risk.
- Impact on Visitors: Requiring Aadhaar authentication for visitors may be regarded as a nuisance, potentially deterring visits and negatively impacting inmates’ emotional well-being.
This endeavour appears to be a thorough effort to employ technology for secure prison management while also honouring Aadhaar authentication’s optional nature.