August 10, 2015
The Hindu"A trade-off between Aadhaar and the right to privacy is incomprehensible." Picture shows biometric particulars being collected in Tamil Nadu. Photo: K. Ananthan
Whether it was required of the Attorney General to question the citizen’s right to privacy to defend the legality of Aadhaar is indeed questionable as the constitutional status of this right has been decisively answered in successive and lucidly articulated judgments
This piece seeks to contest the Attorney-General’s somewhat startling assertion before the Supreme Court that Indians do not have a constitutional right to privacy.
This is the background. Posed the question on whether making a citizen part with vital personal data under the Aadhaar scheme does not amount to intrusion of privacy, the Centre replied in the Supreme Court last month, on July 22, that privacy was not a fundamental right. Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi said the right to privacy had been a “vague” concept all these years, a subject of varying conclusions from the Supreme Court. He told a three-judge Bench that the Constitution-makers had never intended to make it a fundamental right. He then quoted a majority 1962 judgment of the Supreme Court in the Kharak Singh case that held that privacy was not a “guaranteed right” under the Constitution. The submissions came during the hearing of a batch of petitions seeking to stop the implementation of the scheme. The government said it was too late to do that as Rs.5,000 crore had been spent on Aadhaar, which had accessed 80 crore people.
Interpretation of rights