ABLI cited in Supreme Court of India's Aadhaar judgment

ABLI's Regulation of Cross-Border Transfers of Personal Data in Asia (2018) was cited in the Supreme Court of India’s 1,448 page judgment on the constitutionality of India’s Aadhaar system, handed down on 26 September 2018.

These have raised concerns about the privacy and protection of data, which has become a matter of great concern. Problem is not limited to data localisation but has become extra-territorial. There are issues of cross-border transfers of personal data, regulation whereof is again a big challenge with which various opinions are grappling. There are even talks of convergence of regulatory regime in this behalf so that uniform approach is adopted in providing a legal ecosystem to regulate cross-border data transfer. Asian Business Law Institute (ABLI), in collaboration with Singapore Academy of Law (SAL) has, after undertaking in-depth study, compiled 14 country reports in their respective jurisdictions on the regulation of cross-border data transfer and data localisation in Asia.

The case concerned the constitutional validity of Indian's Aadhaar system. Aadhaar is a 12-digit unique identity number in which Indian residents can enrol, linked to both their demographic and biometric details, including fingerprints and iris scans. It is the world's largest biometric identification system.

In January 2018, a five-judge panel of the Supreme Court of India (headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and including Justice AK Sikri,1 Justice AM Khanwilkar, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Ashok Bhushan) heard arguments on the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar system. The hearing lasted 38 days, making it the second-longest hearing in the Supreme Court's history.2

On 26 September 2018, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in a 1,448 page judgment. The Court upheld the constitutional validity of Aadhaar but struck down certain provisions including the linking of Aadhaar to bank accounts, mobile phones and school admissions.


1. The Hon Justice AK Sikri is one of the three Indian representatives of ABLI's Board of Governors.
2. The longest hearing was 68 days when the Supreme Court heard the Kesavananda Bharati case in 1974. The result of that hearing was a decision where a majority of the Supreme Court propounded the doctrine of Basic Structure and of the Constitution.

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