Need to balance between privacy concerns and state's responsibilities: SC

Last Updated 24 January 2018, 16:47 IST

The Supreme Court on Wednesday said there is a need to strike a balance between an individual's right to privacy and the state's responsibilities when the nation was facing threats of terrorism and money laundering.

The top court's observation came after senior lawyer Shyam Divan, arguing against Aadhaar programme and its enabling Act of 2016, contended the Constitution does not allow a surveillance state as it is technically possible now to track every transaction, profile individuals or even "compromise constitutional functionaries".

A five-judge constitution bench presided over by Chief Justice Dipak Misra said no system in the world was secure. The issue was not of how data is collected, but how the information so collected was used or misused.

"We live in the times of terrorism and money laundering and welfare expenditure (of the state), and this has to be balanced (with individual rights)," the bench, also comprising Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, said.

Divan said the Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR) stores and manages data of Aadhaar project and the government is empowered to collect records during the lifetime of an individual, leading to the profiling of the person.

"No security is perfect. But biometrics are a problem because you can't change them if lost or stolen or hacked," he said during the day-long arguments.

"Data collected over an individual's lifetime can become a tool of political blackmail. This can compromise even constitutional functionaries," Divan said.

Technical evidence

The bench asked as to what extent the court can go into aspects of "technical evidence", as there was a distinction between the existence of a mechanism and its abuse.

The court further asked whether it can scrutinise the decision of the government, especially when it was established that no system in the world is "secure".

"Aren't we accepting Google Maps tracking us and other private corporations," the bench asked.  The advancing of arguments remained inconclusive and would continue on January 30.

(Published 24 January 2018, 16:38 IST)

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