SC Wraps Up Hearing on Right to Pri­vacy

The verdict is likely to be out be­fore Jus­tice JS Khe­har demits of­fice on Aug 27

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics - @times­group.com

Sa­man­waya Rau­tray New Delhi: The Supreme Court wrapped up hear­ings on whether pri­vacy was a fun­da­men­tal right guar­an­teed to all cit­i­zens un­der the Con­sti­tu­tion.

A nine-judge bench led by Chief Jus­tice of In­dia JS Khe­har re­served its verdict on the issue on Wed­nes­day. The rul­ing will likely come be­fore Au­gust 27, when Khe­har demits of­fice. The bench grap­pled with all facets of pri­vacy since July 18, when it first con­vened. The hearing was ne­ces­si­tated af­ter the gov­ern­ment ar­gued while de­fend­ing the Aadhaar iden­tity scheme that cit­i­zens had no such fun­da­men­tal right.

Pe­ti­tions had been filed op­pos­ing the link­ing of Aadhaar with the per­ma­nent ac­count num­ber is­sued to in­come tax pay­ers. Those op­posed to Aadhaar had chal­lenged its allper­va­sive, manda­tory na­ture as a vi­o­la­tion of the fun­da­men­tal right to pri­vacy of a ci­ti­zen. The gov­ern­ment con­tended through At­tor­ney Gen­eral KK Venu­gopal that pri­vacy was only a com­mon law right. Not all as­pects of pri­vacy could be el­e­vated to the sta­tus of a fun­da­men­tal right, Ve- nu­gopal had ar­gued.

Congress-ruled states in­clud­ing Hi­machal Pradesh and Kar­nataka had ar­gued in favour of declar­ing pri­vacy a fun­da­men­tal right, as did West Ben­gal. States ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party such as Ma­ha­rash­tra and Gu­jarat op­posed it. The Unique Iden­tity De­vel­op­ment Author­ity of In­dia, the agency that en­rols cit­i­zens for Aadhaar and is­sues the 12-digit iden­tity num­ber, ar­gued that pri­vacy was an elu­sive no­tion in the on­line age. “Whether or not the court de­clares it as a fun­da­men­tal right, there is very lit­tle of it left in this in­for­ma­tion age,” ad­di­tional so­lic­i­tor gen­eral Tushar Me­hta con­tended.

Bio­met­ric data col­lected by UIDAI can­not be used by the state to track cit­i­zens, he claimed. It was a tech­ni­cal im­pos­si­bil­ity, Me­hta said, ar­gu­ing that even if the state were to get a court or­der, it could not ob­tain any in­for­ma­tion ex­cept the fact that a ci­ti­zen had used it to au­then­ti­cate iden­tity.

The court will now rule on the mat­ter. The Aadhaar (Tar­geted De­liv­ery of Fi­nan­cial and Other Sub­si­dies, Ben­e­fits and Ser­vices) Act, 2016, will ac­cord­ingly be tested by a smaller bench for va­lid­ity.

If pri­vacy is de­clared a fun­da­men­tal right, the gov­ern­ment will have to prove that Aadhaar is a rea­son­able re­stric­tion on the right or risk hav­ing it struck down as a vi­o­la­tion of the right.

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