How the Right to Privacy verdict may impact the Aadhaar validity case

During the course of the hearing on the matter of Right to Privacy, Justice Rohinton Nariman F. Nariman had said that everything about right to privacy is not connected to the Aadhaar issue

The nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday declared that Right to Privacy is a fundamental right brushing aside the previous two judgments by six-judge and an eight-judge bench of the apex court which had ruled otherwise. Although the Supreme Court had tried to keep the issue of the fundamental right to privacy from the Aadhaar validity case, the landmark judgment today will have a bearing on the case.

The counsels for the petitioners, who include top legal eagles like Gopal Subramanium, Soli Sorabjee, and Shyam Divan, have been arguing that when a citizen gives his biometrics and personal details to the government, and the details are used by commercial organizations, it is a breach of privacy. The petitioners in the Aadhaar case have also been told the court how the Aadhaar numbers have been leaked and how fingerprints can be easily reproduced and how risky it can be.

Also Read: Meet the 9 judges who gave the verdict that privacy is a fundamental right in India

During the course of the hearing on the matter of Right to Privacy, Justice Rohinton Nariman F. Nariman had said that everything about right to privacy is not connected to the Aadhaar issue. “Laws should reflect the needs of the times and protect the citizens from violations by the State and non-State players,” he was quoted as saying by The Hindu.

While opposing the Right to Privacy as a fundamental right during the hearing, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta for UIDAI, the nodal agency for implementation of Aadhaar, had said that issues such as fingerprint theft “are all perceived ideas of privacy.”

As per the Hindu, he said: “What is so great about my fingerprints? I touch a file, I leave my fingerprints. These are all perceived ideas of privacy. We should aim to use technology to the maximum for the betterment of human beings. Aadhaar has 115.15 crore people enrolled, that is 98% of the population. Privacy is non-negotiable, confidentiality is non-negotiable under the Aadhaar Act.”

As per a report in The Hindu, the court had said that in order to recognise privacy as a right, it would have to first define it. With the SC decision which recognises privacy as a fundamental, the equation between the State and the citizen will also change. The State may no longer have the power to ask the citizens to compulsorily hand them over the data that they need. Even the State’s right to collect biometric data for Aadhaar as a compulsion will not be possible unless it passes and enacts a law taking Articles 14, 19 and 21 into consideration.

Till now, the right to privacy of citizens in India was not an absolute right under the Constitution. But now since the Right to Privacy has been declared as a fundamental right, it is to be seen if and how will the landmark verdict impact the Aadhaar validity case.

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