Aadhaar and Right To Privacy

The Aadhaar project was challenged on grounds of violating the right to privacy. The government has defended Aadhaar on the basis of the 1954 SC judgment, wherein it was held that Right to privacy is not a fundamental right. While defending the scheme, Attorney General said that privacy as fundamental right has been to various judicial interpretations, and its constitutional status is ‘vague’. Currently, the matter is referred to a larger constitutional bench.

Whether Aadhaar Infringing Right To Privacy?

Aadhaar is a 12 digit individual identification number which will serve as a proof of identity and address, anywhere in India. Its objective is to provide social security benefits by plugging the leakages, thus, ensuring transparency and good governance. But the scheme has raised various concerns.

Firstly, the collection of biometric data (iris scan, finger prints) has been left in hands of private agencies, thus, raising concerns of its misuse. Secondly, the scheme has been launched without any backing of law and therefore there is no guarantee that data will not be used for any other purpose. For example by law enforcement agencies for snooping on citizens etc. Therefore, breach of right to privacy has become central issue.

Arguments

The question is, should Aadhaar be held illegal and government scrap the project?

  • One argument is that huge amount of money has already been spent on the scheme , so it should not be scrapped on grounds of violation of breach of privacy. The counter argument is that nobody is contested potential of the scheme, and it is accepted that Aadhaar can bring much desired changes in the government service delivery mechanism. But even if large amount of money has been spent on any policy; and then it poses greater danger, then it will undermine its benefits in long run.
  • Second argument put forth is – in our country where the benefits of schemes are yet to reach the poor, people should be ready to waive their right to privacy in lieu of benefits. This argument is countered on the basis that there is no question of trade off between two things. Since right to livelihood through various social entitlement schemes and right to privacy are equally important; both the rights together converge towards a decent living.
  • Third argument posed by Attorney General in court is that- What harm can Aadhaar do when the Right to Privacy of a citizen has become a futile notion in an era when Face book can track every detail, thought and movement through its ‘WhatsApp’ app? This argument is valid to a great extent and the problem is that most of these servers are located outside India. The sites such as Google, Facebook can easily share the data, thus infringing the individuals right without his / her permission. However, start has to be made somewhere regarding framing of proper rules and regulations esp. when technology has invaded every aspect of our life.
Conclusion

The issue of ADHAAR vis-a-vis privacy has to be dealt in right perspective. Aadhaar is a well thought out scheme which has potential to bring immense benefits to the people. However, government should have legislated a proper law which could guarantee privacy of data and provide stringent measures for any misuse. The legislation should also include the purpose for which the data could be used. It will ensure a balance in effective delivery of government services and protection of privacy rights of citizens.

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