SC cites Aadhaar Act on protection of data

SC cites Aadhaar Act on protection of data

Asks if it is not recognition of privacy as fundamental right

SC cites Aadhaar Act on protection of data

The Supreme Court’s nine-judge bench on Thursday pointed  to an entire chapter in the Aadhaar Act on the protection of data and personal details of citizens and asked the government if it was not in recognition of the right to privacy as a fundamental right.

“The government has dedicated an entire chapter in the 2016 Act to the protection of privacy and security. Is this not a statutory recognition of privacy as a fundamental right,” the bench, presided over by Chief Justice J S Khehar, asked Attorney General K K Venugopal, who maintained there is no fundamental right to privacy as it has got several facets.

Venugopal, however, responded by contending that a law may specifically provide for the protection of privacy, but it cannot be recognised as a fundamental right.

The bench, hearing the question if the right to privacy was a fundamental right, said the privacy relating to informational data was important as some details of the citizens were already in the public domain.

Venugopal admitted that some data may fall within the constitutionally protected rights, but informational privacy can never be a part of fundamental rights.

“There is no informational privacy against compelling state interests and public utility for which the state can ask for fingerprints and iris scans. But again, individuals can refuse if the information sought is totally irrelevant. For example, the question whether you have an extramarital affair during Aadhaar enrolment is absurd. So, the question of informational privacy has to be decided on a case-by-case basis,” he said. The top law officer submitted that the state has got legitimate interest to keep personal data secure as this would make Aadhaar acceptable to one and all.

In his submission, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Unique Identification Authority of India, the agency issuing Aadhaar cards, submitted, “Privacy is non-negotiable, confidentiality is non-negotiable under the Aadhaar Act.”

Senior advocate C A Sundaram, appearing for Maharashtra, submitted that the question of the right to privacy must be examined in the context of Aadhaar. He said privacy cannot be regarded as a standalone right in absence of direct and tangible action.

Even the concept of liberty as a fundamental right was qualified as “personal liberty” by the Constitution makers, he said.

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