The Supreme Court will today continue hearing a number of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar card.
Earlier on January 18, the Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra, questioned the argument against the State’s demand of a citizen’s biometric data for Aadhaar by asking why cannot the government compel people to part with personal information to a private entity, when they voluntarily share such inputs to insurance or mobile companies.
“You want insurance policy, you go to a private company. You want mobile connection, you go to private entities and part with personal information... “Here the government has multiplied the options... the moment the government asks you to give proof of address and other details, you have a problem and you say ‘sorry’,” the bench had said.
Divan, who is representing petitioners like former Karnataka HC judge Justice K S Puttaswamy, several activists Aruna Roy, Shantha Sinha and veteran CPI(M) leader V S Achuthanandan, submitted that the State cannot compel its citizens to give personal information, that too to a private company, as it violated their fundamental rights.
Referring to the legal position with regard to the national population census, he said it has been made clear that the personal and demographic details of citizens collected during census were being protected, but in case of Aadhaar, there was no such safeguard.
Divan referred to recent sting operations by some TV channels showing certain private firms engaged in Aadhaar enrolments, were willing to share personal information of citizens in lieu of money.
In a digitised world, the government has to be “an ally of the citizens and not their adversary” and it must ensure that the privacy interests of citizens are protected against national and overseas corporations, Divan said. Highlighting the alleged malady of the Aadhaar system, he said it would lead to profiling and surveillance of citizens from birth to death.
He also referred to the recent nine-judge bench judgement holding privacy as the fundamental right and said it was delivered in the Aadhaar case and said the procedure for deprivation of this right must be “just, fair, and reasonable.”
Divan said the judgement grounded privacy in ideas of “dignity and autonomy” and it made the preamble to the Indian Constitution central to the concept of fundamental rights.
Earlier, Divan had termed Aadhaar as “an electronic leash” and said the government could completely destroy an individual by “switching off” the 12-digit unique identifier number.
The apex court had on December 15 last year extended till March 31 the deadline for mandatory linking of Aadhaar with various services and welfare schemes of all ministries and departments of the Centre, states and union territories.
The bench, also comprising Justices AK Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan, is hearing a clutch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of the government’s flagship Aadhaar programme and its enabling Act of 2016.