Govt Can­not Use Aad­haar to Track Cit­i­zens, UIDAI Tells Supreme Court

FEAR NOT Even if govt se­cures a court or­der, it wouldn’t get de­tails like for what pur­pose a per­son au­then­ti­cated his ID, says ad­di­tional so­lic­i­tor gen­eral

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics -

New Delhi: The gov­ern­ment can­not track or spy on cit­i­zens us­ing Aad­haar data as it is tech­ni­cally im­pos­si­ble, the agency that han­dles the bio­met­ric in­for­ma­tion told the Supreme Court on Tues­day.

Aad­haar naysay­ers ar­gue that its manda­tory all-per­va­sive na­ture would make In­dia a to­tal­i­tar­ian state as it would give the gov­ern­ment power to track cit­i­zens in real-time.

“I will demon­strate that this is im­pos­si­ble even if the gov­ern­ment wants to,” Ad­di­tional So­lic­i­tor Gen­eral Tushar Me­hta, ap­pear­ing for the Unique Iden­tity De­vel­op­ment Au­thor­ity of In­dia, told a nine-judge bench which is de­bat­ing whether pri­vacy is a fun­da­men­tal right or not. “The claim of sur­veil­lance, track­ing does not stand,” he said.

He ar­gued that the repos­i­tory of all bio­met­rics would be a statu­tory body.

Even if the gov­ern­ment were to be em­pow­ered with a court or­der, it would not get de­tails like for what pur­pose a per­son au­then­ti­cated his iden­tity, he said. Me­hta also ar­gued that in an on­line world, there was no pri­vacy a s s uch, whether the court holds it to be fun­da­men­tal right or not. He also in­formed the court that the gov­ern­ment set up a high-level com­mit­tee headed by for­mer top court judge BN Srikr­ishna to ex­am­ine key data-pro­tec­tion is­sues and ways to deal with those. The de­bate came up af­ter the gov­ern­ment claimed in court while de­fend­ing the Aad­haar scheme that cit­i­zens had no fun­da­men­tal right to pri­vacy. Those op­posed to Aad­haar sharply con­tested this, prompt­ing the chief jus­tice to set up a nine-judge bench to ad­ju­di­cate on the is­sue. Should the top court hold that it is a fun­da­men­tal right, the gover nment will have to prove that it passes the test of rea­son­able re­stric­tions un­der which such a right can be cur­tailed. That will be de­cided by a regular bench. The gov­ern­ment has in­sisted that pri­vacy was a “valu­able”, “com­mon law” right, but not a fun­da­men­tal right.

“Not all as­pects of pri­vacy can be el­e­vated to the sta­tus of a fun­da­men­tal right,” at­tor­ney gen­eral KK Venu­gopal has said. Sev­eral BJPruled states, such as Gu­jarat, Mad­hyaPrade­shandMa­ha­rash­tra, have also es­poused this view.

Some Congress-ruled states and West Ben­gal have called upon the court to de­clare pri­vacy a fun­da­men­tal right.

On Tues­day, se­nior ad­vo­cate CA S u n d a r a m, a p p e a r i n g for Ma­ha­rash­tra, ar­gued that pri­vacy was a rel­a­tive con­cept. “A poor per­son may choose sub­sidised food grains over whether he can have a higher wall to pro­tect his pri­vacy,” he ar­gued.

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