Right to Privacy not a fundamental right: Centre to SC

CelebCafe, 23 Jul 2015

Days after the Modi government launched its Digital India program which connects with the masses through the Aadhaar card, now the government has asked the Supreme Court to set up a constitution bench to decide the validity of Aadhaar scheme. “To be frank, question of violation of the right to privacy does not arise when it does not exist”, the AG said. This is about the right to privacy that the Supreme Court will have to look into.

Rohatgi also read out from another South Carolina judgment by a six-judge bench in 1963, holding that “the right of privacy is not a guaranteed right under our Constitution”. “The sweep is so large”, the AG said and asked the apex court to refer the case to a five-judge Constitution bench.

He said the issue of privacy has not been settled by the apex court and would require a conclusive consideration.

It said the right to privacy can not be invoked to scrap the Aadhaar scheme.

The court was hearing a clutch of petitions challenging the validity of Aadhaar scheme on the ground that the programme violates citizens right to privacy.

At the outset of the hearing, Justice Chelameswar pointed to court’s earlier order asking the central and state governments and their agencies not to link the disbursal of benefits under various social welfare schemes with Aadhaar card.

He said that some petitioners were demanding scrapping of some provisions of the Citizenship Act as they insisted on biometric tests.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the apex court that a large number of citizens have enrolled in Aadhaar and doing away with the unique identity programme may have an adverse impact. The government at that time passed orders with impunity, and right of privacy was the last thing on its mind.

“I think it is a very disappointing proposition that Indians don’t have right to privacy”, he said.

The Privacy Bill 2011 states that, “every individual shall have a right to his privacy – confidentiality of communication made to, or, by him – including his personal correspondence, telephone conversations, telegraph messages, postal, electronic mail and other modes of communication; confidentiality of his private or his family life; protection of his honour and good name; protection from search, detention or exposure of lawful communication between and among individuals; privacy from surveillance; confidentiality of his banking and financial transactions, medical and legal information and protection of data relating to individual”.

The position found support of the senior counsel K.K.Venugopal – who appearing for Centre for Civil Society – referred to several judgments backing the plea for referring challenge to Aadhar scheme to the constitution bench.

Divan will continue his arguments tomorrow.

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