Centre claimed that the collection of information for the Aadhaar card was in no way infringing the right to privacy.
New Delhi: A three-judge Supreme Court bench will take a call on the validity of the Aadhaar law, that makes it mandatory for all citizens to share their biometric data, iris scan and other personal information to obtain an Aadhaar card.
With the nine-judge bench upholding the right to privacy as a fundamental right, the three judges will test the validity of this law on the touchstone of this fundamental right and adjudicate whether sharing of information was a reasonable restriction or it violated the fundamental right to privacy. If the court holds that the restrictions on privacy which Aadhaar imposes are unreasonable, the Aadhaar Act will be struck down as unconstitutional.
Petitioners Justice K.S. Puttasamy and others had argued that the data that was being collected for issuance of the Aadhaar card violated citizens’ fundamental right to privacy as personal data was not protected, and was vulnerable to exposure and misuse. They also questioned the policy of the government insisting on the Aadhaar card to avail various social security benefits, and also for bank loans, opening of bank accounts, scholarships, wages and filing of income-tax returns.
On the other hand, the Centre claimed that the collection of information for the Aadhaar card was in no way infringing the right to privacy. It was argued that around 100 crore people had already been issued Aadhaar cards and by this method lakhs of fake ration card holders had been eliminated and over `15,000 crores saved in this process. The real person to whom services are provided was identified and if someone wants to use the Aadhaar card voluntarily to avail greater benefits even at the cost of waiving his right to privacy, it should be allowed.
The court held that the range and quantity of personal information maintained by the State about citizens was enormous, including a lot of personal information in cyberspace, which must have constitutional protection.
The court said: “A careful and sensitive balance between individual interests and legitimate concerns of the State must be maintained. The legitimate aims of the State include protecting national security, preventing and investigating crime, encouraging innovation and spread of knowledge, and preventing the dissipation of social welfare benefits. These are matters of policy to be considered by the Union government while designing a carefully structured regime for the protection of the data. Since the Union government has informed the court it has constituted a committee chaired by Justice B.N. Srikrishna, a former judge of this court, for that purpose, the matter shall be dealt with appropriately by the Union government having due regard to what has been set out in this judgment.”