Addressing the privacy of billions of citizens, the Supreme Court of India has made a landmark judgement stating that Right of Privacy is a Fundamental Right. The apex court overruled an earlier bench judgment and ordered that Right to Privacy is intrinsic to Right to Life granted under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
This order follows an array of petitions which challenged the mandatory use of Aadhaar cards. The Aadhaar database was collected over the years in biometrics format. “Aadhar is an instrument for identification and authentication. Any initiative linked with identification and authentication cannot be seen as violative of the right to privacy,” said PP Chaudhary, the junior Law Minister, in a statement.
This ruling may also be a huge blow to the Digital India campaign, but has occurred in the wake of several attacks and breaches. From the beginning of 2017, numerous reports had emerged stating a massive amount of data breach. Information of the citizens, like address, Aadhaar number, and other sensitive data like bank details were reportedly published online. This information was gathered by critical departments and ministries sites. Experts have been fearing the Aadhaar might be a tool that will infringe the privacy of billion plus citizens.
“There is a massive scale of data that needs to be managed, and we are still reaching that level of technological advancement to handle incidents like these,” Prabhu Ram, Chief Strategy Officer and MD of Paynear, an Omni-Channel transaction solution provider from India while interacting with CISO MAG. “India adopted one of the most futuristic methods of data collection; incorporating biometrics, iris scans, etc., creating a unique identity scheme that removes every scope of duplication in the future. But like every new initiative, even these had flaws. To err is human. We will learn from our mistakes.”
The court has not commented on the issue which mandates the use of Aadhaar cards linkage for to all financial transactions. There would be a separate bench which will review the case.
The opposition party, Indian National Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi welcomed the verdict and stated that it is a major blow to the “fascist forces,” adding that the ruling party believes in “suppression through surveillance”. “Welcome the SC verdict upholding Right to Privacy as an intrinsic part of individual’s liberty, freedom and dignity. The SC decision marks a major blow to fascist forces,” he tweeted on his twitter handle.
There is still apprehension, “All fundamental rights come with reasonable restrictions,” said senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who was party to the case. Whether Aadhaar can be seen as a reasonable restriction has yet to be decided, he cautioned.