In credibility crisis UIDAI needs to plug loopholes rather than targeting media

aadhaar-card-imageWhen American whistleblower-in-exile Edward Snowden tweeted in the wee hours that the “UAIDAI is responsible for policies that destroyed the privacy of a billion Indians”, within minutes it was trending on twitter, essaying the mood of the nation. His tweet that the journalist (referring to the Tribune) exposing the Aadhaar breach deserved an award, not an investigation, got thousands of retweets and likes within a jiffy.

The newspaper investigation had recently exposed the vulnerability of citizens’ data which is being sold by unscrupulous people for a paltry sum of Rs 500. The report suggested that any buyer can take full advantage of one’s entire information because the government is hell-bent on linking virtually everything with the Aadhaar. We are forced to link our PAN cards, bank accounts, provident funds, etc. with our Aadhaar numbers because threats keep pouring in by way of SMSs from banks, telecom companies and tax authorities to get our accounts linked with Aadhaar numbers or lose them.

Ironically, instead of addressing the cyber security concerns, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) rubbished the report as “a case of misreporting” and denied any breach but at the same time lodged an FIR against the persons involved including the journalist who did the story. Why an FIR if there was no data breach? The silence of the IT Ministry, and clarification by Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad arguing that the FIR was “against unknown persons”, seems worrisome as it appears to be an attempt to muzzle the whistleblower. There is need to understand the sensitivity of the issue because hackers can play havoc with the personal details of people. Fragile technology needs care and regular monitoring because a tearing hurry and its forced insistence while ignoring its cyber misuse would put people at risk of financial fraud and data breach thus putting public interest to jeopardy. It is a travesty of justice to file FIR against the media house and the reporter by treating them as accused under charges like cheating and impersonation.

 The UIDAI should order a thorough internal investigation into the alleged breach and make its findings public. There is an urgent need for enacting data protection legislation to reform the policies for the sake of privacy of people. It is good that UIDAI has recognised the need for a 16-digit temporary Virtual ID (VID) instead of Aadhaar number to authenticate identity for availing services from March 1. The introduction of KYC (Know Your Customer) and UID tokens to secure security concerns are steps in the right direction.

SC judges stage a coup against CJI: Institutional integrity takes a beating

The cracks in the Supreme Court edifice became visible on January 12 as “Big Four” judges in an unprecedented move accused the Chief Justice Dipak Misra of not strictly adhering to rules in assigning cases to appropriate benches which they said can create “doubt” about the institutional integrity of the apex court.

Speaking to the media at the residence of Justice J. Chelameswar, the judges said the Supreme Court administration was “not in order”. They also released an undated letter they wrote to Justice Misra in which they conceded that the Chief Justice was the master of the roster but this was “not a recognition of any superior authority, legal or factual of the Chief Justice over his colleagues”.

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The press conference tantamount to a judicial coup within the top court as four senior-most judges after the CJI – Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Kurian Joseph and Madan B. Lokur besides Justice Chelameswar – failed to convince the judicial patriarch over the issue in their last-minute effort this morning before they went public.

Justice Chelameswar said at a hurriedly convened press conference that the press conference is “an extraordinary event in the history of the judiciary and more particularly in this nation, even for this institution (Supreme Court)… Many things less than desirable have happened in the last few months. We owe a responsibility to the institution and the nation. We tried to collectively persuade the Chief Justice that certain things are not in order and remedial measures are necessary. Unfortunately, our efforts have failed in convincing the Chief Justice of India to take steps to protect this institution.”

The judges, however, did not refer to any particular matter the Chief Justice had decided in assigning benches. Asked specifically if they were upset over reference of the matter seeking a probe into the suspicious death of Special CBI Judge Brijgopal Harkishan Loya, Justice Gogoi said: “Yes.” But in the seven-page letter, they said they were not mentioning details only to avoid embarrassing the institution because “such departures have already damaged the image of this institution to some extent”.

The disharmony among the judges has reportedly been simmering since Justice Misra junked an order passed by Justice J Chelameswar in November last, and declared that the Chief Justice was the “master of the roster”. The CJI had given the order a day after a two-judge bench headed by Justice Chelameswar had passed an order that a five-judge bench of senior most judges in the apex court should be set up to consider an independent probe into an MCI corruption case in which bribes were allegedly taken in the name of settling cases pending before Supreme Court judges.

Holding that the Chief Justice was only the first among equals, the judges contended that in a matter of determination of roster there were well-settled and time-honored conventions guiding the Chief Justice, be it the convention dealing with the strength of the bench required to deal with a particular case or the composition thereof.

“A necessary corollary to the above-mentioned principle is the members of any multi-numbered judicial body, including this court, would not arrogate to themselves the authority to deal with and pronounce upon matters which ought to be heard by appropriate benches, both composition-wise and strength-wise with due regard to the roster fixed”, they wrote in the letter. They further said any departure from the two rules would not only lead to “unpleasant and undesirable consequences” of creating doubt in the body politic about the integrity of the institution.

Four-SC-judges-1024x768Of late, the twin rules mentioned above have not been strictly adhered to, lamented the judges. There have been instances where cases having far-reaching consequences for the nation and the institution had been assigned selectively to the benches without any rational basis for such assignment. This must be guarded against at all cost. “Democracy won’t survive without free judiciary… We are left with no choice but to take this before the nation”, observed Justice Chelameswar. In response to a question about impeaching the CJI, he said it was for the nation to decide.

The explosive press conference has caused tremors across the country, remarked a senior advocate Prashant Yadav. He said that the problems enunciated by the SC judges are not new. He hoped that the full house court should deliberate and evolve a robust mechanism to restore the public faith.

There are reports that the Centre’s Narendra Modi government immediately went into huddle to discuss the fallout of today’s critical development. The PMO is reportedly holding talks with the law ministry.

Bihar CM's convoy pelted with stones in Buxar

Bihar CM Nitish Kumar
Bihar CM Nitish Kumar

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s convoy was attacked on January 12 in Nandan area of Buxar district during a ‘samiksha yatra’.
Though the chief minister was rescued safely, two security persons were reportedly injured in the incident.
The incident occurred when he was on his way to a village as part of the state-wide Vikas Samiksha Yatra.
“Some people feel disturbed over my commitment to the progress of the state. They try to mislead and provoke others but people should not get perturbed over such minor happenings,” the chief minister said while addressing a public meeting in Dumraon block later.

UP constable rapes 7-year-old girl in Greater Noida

constable_Noida45-year-old Uttar Pradesh police constable Subhash Singh allegedly raped a seven-year-old girl on January 11, right before her younger brother in Greater Noida’s Surajpur area.

The constable, who is posted with the sales tax department, was in an inebriated state when he took the girl to his house and raped her. She was playing outside her house when Subhash, taking advantage of the situation lured the girl with a ten rupee note inside his house, said Akhilesh Pradhan, SHO, Surajpur police station.

Singh immediately fled the scene after which the neighbours reached for her rescue when they heard her screaming. The accused returned to his rented room the next morning assuming that the issue has been resolved, only to find the victim’s family and local people were waiting for him.

Singh has been booked for raping the minor under Protection of Children against Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

The child has been admitted to a district hospital in Noida for medical examination.

ISRO launches 100th satellite Cartosat-2 Series

The Indian Space Research Organisation on January 12 successfully launched workhorse Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C40) carrying 100th satellite Cartosat-2 Series and 29 other satellites in orbit.

The launch was lifted off from the Satish Dhawisro_cartosatknklan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh at 9:28 am.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi took on his Twitter to congratulate the ISRO team, “My heartiest congratulations to ISRO and its scientists on the successful launch of PSLV today. This success in the New Year will bring benefits of the country’s rapid strides in space technology to our citizens, farmers, fishermen etc.”

He further tweeted, “The launch of the 100th satellite by ISRO signifies both its glorious achievements and also the bright future of India’s space programme.”

The PSLV-C40 carrying 100th satellite Cartosat-2 Series also carried satellites from Canada, Finland, France, Republic of Korea, UK and the United States.

To this PM Modi tweeted, “Benefits of India’s success are available to our partners! Out of the 31 Satellites, 28 belonging to 6 other countries are carried by today’s launch.”

4 SC judges address press conference for the first time

supreme-court-judges-press-conference_650x400_41515740029In an unusual move and for the first time in India, four senior judges of the Supreme Court held a press conference at 4, Tughlaq Road, the residence of Justice J Chelameswar.

The other three judges were: Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Kurian Joesph.

“It is an extraordinary event in the history of any nation. There is no pleasure in this, we were compelled to do this, the administration of the Supreme Court is not in order,” said Justice Chelameswar.

“We owe a responsibility to the institution and the nation. Our efforts have failed in convincing the Chief Justice to take steps to protect the institution,” he added while addressing the gathering at the lawns of his residence.

  “We tried to persuade the CJI (even today morning) but we failed. Our efforts to seek remedial measures failed. Unless this institution is preserved, democracy will not survive in this country,” Justice Chelameswar.

 

 

Nilekani slams ‘orchestrated campaign’ to malign Aadhaar

nandanReacting to the filing of an FIR against the Chandigarh based leading daily newspaper report relating to Aadhaar data breach, former Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) chairman Nandan Nilekani has slammed an “orchestrated campaign” to malign Aadhaar.

“There is hundred per cent an orchestrated campaign to see how Aadhaar gets maligned, yes absolutely,” an economic paper quoted Nilekani as saying on the sidelines of the Infosys Science Foundation Award in Bengaluru.

Delhi Police had on January 8 registered the FIR on a complaint by an UIDAI official following the newspaper report on data breach of more than 1 billion Aadhaar cards, naming the journalist behind the story.

The police were informed by the official that the correspondent, posing as a buyer, had purchased a service being offered by anonymous sellers over WhatsApp that provided unrestricted access to details of Aadhaar numbers.

Nilekani reportedly said that the issue has been blown out of proportion as Aadhaar have built far too many security layers and it is not possible to randomly pore it.

Further referring to FIR filed in the case, he said negative views on Aadhaar will have negative reactions and hence, it would be better for people to have a constructive view on it.

“If you are just taking a negative view, and not a constructive view, then you also have other (negative) reactions. I think, everybody has to accept Aadhaar is here to stay,” the former UIDAI chief reportedly said.

The Aadhaar is here to stay because as many as 119 crore people have it, 550 million have linked the numbers to their bank accounts and Rs 95,000 crore transferred into DBT accounts, he added.

Nilekani said he was very confident of the Supreme Court upholding Aadhaar under the fundamental right of privacy because it meets the test of the law being proportionate and reasonable.

He welcomed putting in place a two-layer security to reinforce privacy protection for Aadhaar ID number holders by the UIDAI. “I think this is a very significant announcement by UIDAI and in some sense it really makes the case against it go away,” he reportedly said.

The former UIDAI chief said it has introduced a virtual identification for ID holders so that the actual number need not be shared by the people to authenticate their identity.

Simultaneously, it has further regulated the storage of the Aadhaar number within various databases, he added.

Vikas Barala gets bail in Chandigarh stalking case

vikas-baralaPunjab and Haryana High Court on January 11 granted bail to accuse Vikas Barala, son of Chandigarh BJP president Subhash Barala, in the Chandigarh stalking case.

Vikas and his friend were arrested for stalking and harassing Varnika Kundu on August 4, 2017, when she was returning home from work at 11:15 pm. 29-year-old Varnika was driving alone and was almost waylaid by the duo. Following the incident, she took on the Facebook to post the entire incident which caught the attention of national media. She is a daughter of a Senior IAS officer.

 On January 9, Varnika was grilled by Barala’s counsel for five hours and asked nearly 500 questions about her personal life – from the friends she has and to whether her mother had been told of the incident when it took place, as per news report.

Kamala Fire: Mumbai Police arrest pub owners

kamala-mills-fire-1Mumbai Police has arrested the owners of ‘1 Above’ pub, Abhijeet Mankar, Kripesh Sanghavi and Jigar Sanghavi in connection with the Kamala Mills fire that claimed 14 lives on December 29.

The owner of the pub Abhijeet and co-owners Kripesh Sanghavi and Jigar Sanghavi were on the run since the day of the incident. Abhijeet was arrested from Marine Lines, and the Sanghvi brothers were apprehended from Andheri.

“Now our teams are in search of Yug Tulli, owner of Mojo’s Bistro pub, who is also on the run,” a police official said.

On December 29, a major fire that broke out in a building in Kamala Mill of Mumbai’s Lower Parel claimed 14 lives and injured more than 20.

UIDAI introduces 16-digit Virtual ID to secure Aadhaar data

aadhaar-card-image The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has introduced a 16-digit temporary Virtual ID (VID) which will be used instead of Aadhaar number to authenticate identity for availing services from March 1. This move has come in the wake of a security breach of Aadhaar which was reported by a Chandigarh-based national daily.

The UIDAI has also brought in Limited KYC (Know Your Customer) and UID Tokens, in an attempt to secure the privacy and security concerns about Aadhaar numbers being used and stored by many public and private entities.

The UIDAI said, “Today the initiative, which is aimed at minimising instances of leak and misuse of Aadhaar numbers, would enhance privacy of the 119 crore people issued the identification number.”

 “The UIDAI, which had been working on the “Virtual ID” for months, made the announcement at a time privacy concerns around Aadhaar peaked after a newspaper expose on unauthorised access of its database earlier this month,” it further said.

A person can generate a new 16-digit Virtual ID through UIDAI’s portal, enrollment centers, Aadhaar’s mobile app, etc. for various services as the older ID gets automatically cancelled after a period of time. The Virtual ID, which is similar to an OTP, will be then submitted to Aadhaar servers to confirm the person’s identity.  

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