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.

August 24, 2017: The nine-judge Constitution Bench rules that right to privacy is “intrinsic to life and liberty” and is inherently protected under the various fundamental freedoms enshrined under Part III of the Indian Constitution

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the World; indeed it's the only thing that ever has"

“Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.” - Edward Snowden


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


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.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

11719 - Privacy and protection - Hindu Businessline

Data protection is not a substitute for a right to privacy but the two are interlinked

India is proud of its status as an IT superpower but when it comes to data protection and privacy laws it’s safe to say we are not a world leader. That’s an anomaly that is crying out to be corrected and there will be many battles before we reach a satisfactory conclusion. Now a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court has just finished hearing arguments in the Aadhaar case that centred around whether privacy is a fundamental right, as defined by the Constitution. The bench was constituted because many petitioners had come before the court arguing that Aadhaar’s biometric authentication scheme violated the privacy of Indians and thus infringed their fundamental rights. Since data is the lifeblood of the Information Age, it’s certain that whichever way the court rules, the judgment will be a historic one.

The Centre’s clearly determined to protect Aadhaar which has become one of its keystone schemes. As a result it has taken strong stands that privacy is not a fundamental right under Article 21 or Article 19 of the Constitution. The Centre argued that the Constitution’s framers had gone into great detail but didn’t mention a right to privacy. On a different note, it argued that the right to privacy could not be used to deprive millions of poorer people of the benefits of the Aadhaar scheme — this argument appears to assume that privacy is only for the upper echelons of society. The Government’s lawyers also pointed out that there were multiple facets to privacy and took the stand that each should be dealt with individually. In earlier cases the Supreme Court has held that privacy was a Common Law right but not a fundamental right. Against this, the opposing side argued that privacy was an intrinsic part of ‘Right to Life’ under Article 21 and also Article 19. They also held that private citizens need a fundamental right to privacy not only against the Government but also against giant corporations that are accumulating data. During the hearing the government also informed the court that it’s forming a committee to look into data protection under former Supreme Court judge BN Srikrishna. However, the committee’s composition may raise eyebrows amongst privacy advocates because it includes UIDAI (Aadhaar) chief Ajay Bhushan Pandey along with several other government nominees. A data protection act isn’t a substitute for a fundamental right, privacy advocates argue.

The Aadhaar judges have a number of options before them. 

They may declare privacy’s a fundamental right but the Aadhaar scheme doesn’t contravene it. Alternatively, they may accept Justice DY Chandrachud’s proposition that different levels of privacy need different levels of protection. If they take a strong stand and declare that Aadhaar infringes the fundamental rights it would be a bombshell. 

Whatever the decision, India, as a global information technology superpower, will have to greatly strengthen its data protection and privacy laws.

(This article was published on August 3, 2017)