uid

When I opposed Aadhaar in 2010 , I was called a BJP stooge. In 2016 I am still opposing Aadhaar for the same reasons and I am told I am a Congress die hard. No one wants to see why I oppose Aadhaar as it is too difficult. Plus Aadhaar is FREE so why not get one ? Ram Krishnaswamy

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. -Mahatma Gandhi

In matters of conscience, the law of the majority has no place. Mahatma Gandhi

“The invasion of privacy is of no consequence because privacy is not a fundamental right and has no meaning under Article 21. The right to privacy is not a guaranteed under the constitution, because privacy is not a fundamental right.” Article 21 of the Indian constitution refers to the right to life and liberty -Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi

“There is merit in the complaints. You are unwittingly allowing snooping, harassment and commercial exploitation. The information about an individual obtained by the UIDAI while issuing an Aadhaar card shall not be used for any other purpose, save as above, except as may be directed by a court for the purpose of criminal investigation.” -A three judge bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar said in an interim order.

Legal scholar Usha Ramanathan describes UID as an inverse of sunshine laws like the Right to Information. While the RTI makes the state transparent to the citizen, the UID does the inverse: it makes the citizen transparent to the state, she says.

Good idea gone bad
I have written earlier that UID/Aadhaar was a poorly designed, unreliable and expensive solution to the really good idea of providing national identification for over a billion Indians. My petition contends that UID in its current form violates the right to privacy of a citizen, guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution. This is because sensitive biometric and demographic information of citizens are with enrolment agencies, registrars and sub-registrars who have no legal liability for any misuse of this data. This petition has opened up the larger discussion on privacy rights for Indians. The current Article 21 interpretation by the Supreme Court was done decades ago, before the advent of internet and today’s technology and all the new privacy challenges that have arisen as a consequence.
Rajeev Chandrasekhar, MP Rajya Sabha

“What is Aadhaar? There is enormous confusion. That Aadhaar will identify people who are entitled for subsidy. No. Aadhaar doesn’t determine who is eligible and who isn’t,” Jairam Ramesh

But Aadhaar has been mythologised during the previous government by its creators into some technology super force that will transform governance in a miraculous manner. I even read an article recently that compared Aadhaar to some revolution and quoted a 1930s historian, Will Durant. Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Rajya Sabha MP

“I know you will say that it is not mandatory. But, it is compulsorily mandatorily voluntary,” Jairam Ramesh, Rajya Saba April 2017


Special

Here is what the Parliament Standing Committee on Finance, which examined the draft N I A Bill said.

1. There is no feasibility study of the project]

2. The project was approved in haste

3. The system has far-reaching consequences for national security

4. The project is directionless with no clarity of purpose

5. It is built on unreliable and untested technology

6. The exercise becomes futile in case the project does not continue beyond the present number of 200 million enrolments

7. There is lack of coordination and difference of views between various departments and ministries of government on the project

Quotes

What was said before the elections:

NPR & UID aiding Aliens – Narendra Modi

"I don't agree to Nandan Nilekeni and his madcap (UID) scheme which he is trying to promote," Senior BJP Leader Yashwant Sinha, Sept 2012

"All we have to show for the hundreds of thousands of crore spent on Aadhar is a Congress ticket for Nilekani" Yashwant Sinha.(27/02/2014)

TV Mohandas Pai, former chief financial officer and head of human resources, tweeted: "selling his soul for power; made his money in the company wedded to meritocracy." Money Life Article

Nilekani’s reporting structure is unprecedented in history; he reports directly to the Prime Minister, thus bypassing all checks and balances in government - Home Minister Chidambaram

To refer to Aadhaar as an anti corruption tool despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary is mystifying. That it is now officially a Rs.50,000 Crores solution searching for an explanation is also without any doubt. -- Statement by Rajeev Chandrasekhar, MP & Member, Standing Committee on Finance

Finance minister P Chidambaram’s statement, in an exit interview to this newspaper, that Aadhaar needs to be re-thought completely is probably the last nail in its coffin. :-) Financial Express

The Rural Development Ministry headed by Jairam Ramesh created a road Block and refused to make Aadhaar mandatory for making wage payment to people enrolled under the world’s largest social security scheme NRGA unless all residents are covered.


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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

11205 - Aadhaar Case: Beyond Privacy, An Issue of Bodily Integrity - The Quint

Aadhaar Case: Beyond Privacy, An Issue of Bodily Integrity

Amber Sinha & Aradhya Sethia
Yesterday, 8:14 pm

The insertion of Section 139AA in the Income Tax Act has been challenged and is being heard by a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court.

The Finance Act, 2017, among its various sweeping changes, also inserted a new provision into the Section 139AA of the IT ACT, which makes Aadhaar numbers mandatory for:

(a) applying for PAN and

(b) filing income tax returns

In case one does not have an Aadhaar number, she or he is required to submit the enrolment ID of one’s Aadhaar application. The overall effect of this provision is that it makes Aadhaar mandatory for filing tax returns and applying for a PAN. The SC hearings began on 26 April. In order to properly appreciate the tough task at hand for the counsel for the petitioners, it is important to do a quick recap of the history of the Aadhaar case.

Also Watch: In Defence Of Aadhaar – Nandan Nilekani

Arguments being made in the Aadhaar case in Supreme Court. (Infographic: Rahul Gupta/ The Quint)

Case Over Constitutional Validity

Back in August 2015, the Supreme Court had referred the question of the constitutional validity of the fundamental right to privacy to a larger bench.

This development came after the Union government pointed out that the judgements in MP Sharma vs Satish Chandra and Kharak Singh vs State of UP (decided by eight and six judge benches respectively) rejected a constitutional right to privacy.

The reference to a larger bench has since delayed the entire Aadhaar case, while an alarming number of government schemes have made Aadhaar mandatory in the meantime.

Since then, the Supreme Court has not entertained any arguments related to privacy in the court proceedings on Aadhaar pending the resolution of this issue by a constitutional bench, which is yet to to be set up. The petitioners have had to navigate this significant handicap in the current proceedings as well.

Also Read: Shocking Data Breach: Aadhaar Details of Over a Million Leaked



Arguments being made in the Aadhaar case in Supreme Court. (Infographic: Rahul Gupta/ The Quint)

Ongoing Hearing in Aadhaar Case

At the beginning of Advocate Shyam Divan’s arguments on behalf of the petitioners, the Attorney General objected to the petitioners making any argument related to the right to privacy. Anticipating this objection, Divan assured the court, right at the outset that they “will not argue on privacy issue at all”.

In the course of his arguments, Divan referred to at least three rights which may otherwise have been argued as facets of the right to privacy – personal autonomy, informational self-determination and bodily integrity. However, in this hearing those rights were strategically not couched as dimensions of privacy.

Divan consistently maintained that these rights emanate from Article 21 and Article 19 of the Constitutions and are different from the right to privacy.

Many Layers of the Right to Privacy

If one follows the courtroom exchanges in the original Aadhaar matter (not the one being argued now), the debates around the privacy implications of Aadhaar have focussed on simplistic balancing exercises of “security vs privacy” and “efficient governance vs privacy”.

These observations depict the right to privacy as a monolithic concept, i.e. a single right which has a unity of harm it captures within itself. In other words, all privacy harms are considered to be on the same footing. "Privacy harms" here mean the undesirable effects of the violation of the right to privacy.

This monolithic conception was clearly reflected in the Supreme Court’s decision to refer the constitutionality of “right to privacy” to a larger bench.

In MP Sharma vs Satish Chandra, the Supreme Court had rejected certain dimensions of what is generally understood as the right to privacy in a specific context (and hence dealing with a specific kind of privacy harm). A monolithic conception of the right to privacy would mean that MP Sharma should be applicable to all kinds of privacy claims.

Arguments being made in the Aadhaar case in Supreme Court. (Infographic: Rahul Gupta/ The Quint)

Prof Daniel Solove, a privacy law expert, in his landmark paper “Taxonomy of Privacy” argues that the right to privacy captures multiple kinds of harms within itself. The right to privacy is not a monolithic concept, but a plural concept; there is no one right to privacy, but multiple hues of right to privacy.

Also Read: With 100 Cr Unverified Aadhaar Numbers, Time for Accountability

Sidestepping ‘Privacy’ in the Current Case

The plural conception of the right to privacy not only makes our privacy jurisprudence more nuanced and comprehensive, but also guides us to analyse differential privacy harms according to the standards appropriate for them.

Therefore, the refusal of the Supreme Court in MP Sharma to recognise a specific construction of privacy read into a specific constitutional provision should not have precluded the bench, even one smaller in number, from treating other conceptions of privacy into the same or other constitutional provisions.

Does Aadhaar Infringe on the Right to Privacy?

In MP Sharma and Others vs Satish Chandra (1954), an eight-judge bench decided that the right to privacy is not a fundamental right.

A Supreme Court bench is hearing a matter challenging the govt’s decision to make Aadhaar mandatory for filing IT returns and obtaining PAN cards.

On behalf of petitioners, senior lawyer Shyam Diwan argues how making Aadhaar mandatory is an infringement on personal autonomy.

Finance Act 2017 has made Aadhaar mandatory for filing income tax returns and obtaining new PAN cards.

Centre likely to reply in the case during the next hearing due on 2 May.

As a lawyer, Divan was severely compromised from being unable to argue the right to privacy, which in my opinion, cuts at the heart of the constitutional issues with the Aadhaar project.

He refrained from couching any of his arguments on bodily integrity, informational self-determination, and personal autonomy as privacy arguments. What the approach reveals is that far from being a monolithic notion, the harms that privacy, as we understand it, addresses, are capable of being broken into multiple and distinct rights.

Also Read: 1.12bn Have Aadhaar Numbers – How the Govt Plans to Enrol the Rest

Moving Beyond Article 21

Divan further argues that coercing someone to give personal information is compelled speech and hence, violative of Article 19(1)(a) (the rights to free speech and expression). Once again, the harm described here – compelling someone to part with personal data – is conventionally a privacy harm.

However, it is important to note here that a privacy harm may also be a speech harm. Therefore, Article 21 is not the sole repository of these rights. They may also be located under other articles. The practical consequence of these rights being located under multiple constitutional provisions could be added protection of these rights.

For instance, if it can be shown that compelling an individual to part with personal data results into violation of Article 19(1)(a), the State will have to show which ground laid down under Article 19(2) does the specific restriction fall under.

This might be more challenging as opposed to the vague standard of “compelling state interest” test which has been the constitutional test for privacy violations under Article 21.

Changing the Definition of Right to Privacy

The arguments presented by Divan, if accepted by the Supreme Court, could represent a two-pronged shift in the landscape of the values popularly understood under the right to privacy in India:

1) first, the idea of the rights of bodily integrity,informational self-determination, and personal autonomyas part of a plural concept (whether arising from the right to privacy or another right) that encompasses several harms within it, and

2) second that some of these rights may be read into other Articles in the Constitution.

Under the circumstances, Mr Divan’s performance was nothing short of heroic. Whether they pass muster and impact the course of this long drawn legal battle remains to be seen.

Also Read: Linking PAN with Aadhaar: Tracking the Habitual Tax Defaulters


(Amber Sinha is a lawyer and works as a researcher at the Centre for Internet and Society. Aradhya Sethia is a final year law student at the National Law School of India University, Bangalore. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)