As Supreme Court decides if privacy is a fundamental right, petitioners worry most about hacking, information leak

The development of the debate over the Right to Privacy is intrinsically linked to the big debate on Aadhaar and how making it mandatory will lead to a breach of confidentiality of data collected through Aadhaar. While petitioners argue that Aadhaar violates privacy and helps the government to spy on people, the Centre said that Right to Privacy is not absolute. The Aadhaar scheme has been challenged by several petitions, which are together tagged under the case of KS Puttaswamy & Ors versus Union of India & Ors.

Representational image. CNN-News18

Representational image. CNN-News18

The debate has snowballed into a larger cause and will possibly come to a conclusion on Thursday. There has been a multitude of petitions filed around the Aadhaar scheme and its usage by various state agencies in several forums across the country.

In the KS Puttaswamy and Another versus Union of India case, the filed petition states, "One of the grounds of attack on the [Aadhaar] scheme is that the very collection of such biometric data is violative of the 'right to privacy'."

While quoting other petitioners, the petition stated that some of them assert that Right to Privacy is implied under Article 21 of the Constitution while others think that the right emanates not just from Article 21 but also from various other articles embodying the Fundamental Rights guaranteed under Part-III of the Constitution.

The counsel for the petitioners argued that world over in all the countries where Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence is followed, 'privacy' is recognised as an important aspect of the liberty of human beings. Gopal Subramanium and Shyam Divan, arguing from the petitioners side, said that it is too late for the government to argue that the Constitution of India does not recognise privacy as an aspect of the liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

Divan said that the biometric information of an individual can be circulated to other authorities or corporate bodies which, in turn, can be used by them for commercial exploitation and, therefore, must be stopped. The petitioners feel that giving Aadhaar number amounts to surveillance by the State and the entire profile of people would be available for exploitation.

The petitioners pointed out that with today's technology, there was every possibility of copying fingerprints and even the iris images and various cases of fake Aadhaar card have come to light. The counsel stated the fear of hacking of Aadhaar cards and even leak of information.

Allaying these fears, then Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi had said in 2012 that the government does not share any personal information of an Aadhaar card holder. It was, however, decided by the court that Aadhaar will not be a condition for obtaining any benefits due to a citizen and the government will make it known to the public that Aadhaar is not mandatory.

A number of petitions were filed, claiming that the government did not comply with the orders. The counsel for the petitioners argued that even Section 3 of the Aadhaar act spells out that enrollment of Aadhaar is voluntary and consensual. The new set of petitions said that the government is continuously insisting that more and more people apply for Aadhaar. The petitioners have also demanded contempt proceedings to be initiated against the government while stating again and again that Aadhaar should remain voluntary until the Supreme Court has given a final decision.

Updated Date: Aug 24, 2017 09:04 AM

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