Bound to protect personal information, Centre tells Supreme Court

Bound to protect personal information, Centre tells Supreme Court

Bound to protect personal information, Centre tells Supreme Court
The Union government on Friday told the Supreme Court protecting personal details of an individual is an integral to his or her personal and any contract violating it would infringe upon fundamental right to life guaranteed under the Constitution.
 
“Data is an extension of personality. It is reflection of the one's foot steps in life. There cannot be an individual without personality. There would be a need for state's intervention if any contract infringed upon the data as it affects my right to life,” Additional Solicitor General P S Narasimha submitted before a five-judge Constitution bench presided over by Justice Dipak Misra.
 
The government further told the court it can pass an interim order if there is no regulatory mechanism to ensure data protection.
 
The Centre's unequivocal stand supporting data protection of citizens came amid a debate before a separate nine-judge bench on whether right to privacy is a fundamental right. The privacy issue has been raised questioning the move to issue Aadhaar cards to people. The government, for its part, had claimed the right to privacy was not a fundamental right.
 
The government clarified its position on data protection as the five-judge Constitution was considering a plea challenging internet messaging service WhatsApp's privacy policy over alleged sharing of data with Facebook.
 
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for WhatsApp, submitted every other platform was accessing individual data and sharing it. “In case of WhatsApp, not even a single comma is shared,” he said on being questioned over WhatsApp contract of sharing data with Facebook.
 
The bench, also comprising Justices A K Sikri, Amitava Roy, A M Khanwilkar and M M Shantanagoudar, said the government has to tell what kind of regulatory regime was required in such cases.
 
“Articles 19 (freedom of speech and expression) and 21 (right to life) have many limbs. You are providing service and cannot impose conditions which offend my right to free access,” the bench said.
 
Narasimha said there is a need for state's intervention. “Data protection is higher principle. We have to ensure data are not abused as it has got proprietary interest,” the law officer said.
 
Maintaining that he was not against data protection policy, Sibal said, “Now, it is necessary to share data for various purposes like commerce. If somebody books a ticket for Italy, the information is shared immediately, he gets pop up on places to visit over there.”
 
“We would be opening a pandora's box and would not be able to control it. There are so many platforms which freely shared data,” he further said.
 
The court said if the private companies providing public utility services entered into contract, which has probability of causing injury to the Constitutionally-protected rights, it would not be allowed.
 
Senior advocates Harish Salve, representing a couple of students who challenged WhatsApp policy, submitted there are many manifestations of state wherein private players, providing public utility services, become part of it. Those service providers would be regulated and they can't put arbitrary conditions in their rendering of services.
 
However, Salve and Sibal, Arvind Datar and Sidharth Luthra, appearing for private players, pointed out that the nine-judge bench was considering the issue of privacy which would have consequences in hearing in the instant matter. The court then put the matter for consideration on September 5.
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