Case Name: Democratic Alliance for Knowledge Freedom vs Union of India & Ors.
SFLC.in has provided legal assistance to the petitioner – Democratic Alliance for Knowledge Freedom (DAKF) in challenging the arbitrary mandate of collecting students, parents and teachers’ personal data including Aadhaar data without any legal justification, violating the fundamental Right to Privacy under Article 21 under the UDISE+ scheme by the Union Ministry of Education. SFLC.in counsels Prasanth Sugathan, Mishi Choudhary, and Arjun Adrian D’Souza assisted in the filing of the matter.
Facts in brief:
Unified District Information System for Education Plus (“UDISE+”) is a program initiated by the Department of School Education and Literacy under the Ministry of Education in India. It is a platform that collates all school data from across the country for the purpose of building a credible database of school data. UDISE+ publishes annual flash statistics reports based on the database collected from schools in the country. The Student Database Management System records all developments related to the student, such as Profile, Enrolment, Dropouts, Transfers, Progression / Holdback etc. The Union of India vide letter dated 23.03.2023 stated that all student data captured by the State Governments would be included under the UDISE+ portal, operated by the Union Ministry of Education. No mention of seeding Aadhaar was provided. Through another letter dated 26.06.2023, the Union pushed for the maximum number of possible students to seed their Aadhaar data in the UDISE+ portal. No object for such centralised collection has been specified. However, what is implied is that student-benefit transfer to the particular State Governments may be contingent on seeding such Aadhaar data. The Department of School Education and Literacy, Government of Kerala issued a letter dated 25.08.2023 stating that the deadline for seeding Aadhaar data to the UDISE+ portal was 31.08.2023.
The legal challenge to the mandatory collection of Aadhaar data is based inter alia on the following grounds:
- Overbroad data collection and storage under UDISE+:
The UDISE+ program mandates that personally identifiable information, such as name of parents, address, phone number, religion, social category, disability status and health details, including Aadhaar details, be collected and stored in a highly centralized database. Such overbroad data collection is being carried out in the absence of informed consent from parents. This contravenes the standard of proportionality required of any executive action infringing on the right to privacy, as laid down by the Supreme Court in Justice K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India (2017) 10 SCC 1.
- Constitutional right and not ‘benefit’:
The deadline for seeding Aadhaar details under the UDISE+ portal provided to schools in Kerala is 31st October 2023, failing which funding to schools may be impacted. Making the provision of education contingent upon Aadhaar details is a gross violation of the Right to Free and Compulsory Education guaranteed to children aged 6-14 years under Article 21-A of the Constitution and Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009. The Supreme Court has held in this regard, that the right to education under Article 21-A is a Constitutional right and not a benefit under Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act. (Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) & Anr v. Union of India (2019) 1 SCC 1). With the Digital Personal Data Protection Act, 2023 yet to come into force, the UDISE+ program in effect, bypasses the safeguards provided under the Act.
- No consent mechanism:
No provision for collecting the informed consent of parents has been undertaken. A clear, unambiguous and affirmative act on behalf of the parent is required to signify assent to the processing of personal data belonging to their children, most of whom are minors. The mandatory collection of personal data has not followed a meaningful consent framework and is arbitrary to such extent.
The Prayers sought in the petition are:
The petitioner seeks to set aside the letters mandating the seeding of Aadhaar data. Further, it asked for directions to the respondents to stop the collection and transfer of personal data and to delete all personal information collected from students and parents under the UDISE+ portal.
Hearing update on 30.10.2023:
The Kerala High Court admitted the petition. Notice has been issued to the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and General Education Department, Kerala. The matter has now been listed for 23rd November 2023.
Find a copy of the petition filed by SFLC.in attached below.