The Right to Privacy is guaranteed to every Indian. At long last do we have some clarity on the right to privacy in India. The Supreme Court ruled that the right to Privacy or individual privacy is a fundamental right, subject to reasonable restrictions.
Aadhaar is proposed to become the country’s uniform and standard document for identity verification of all Indian citizens. Nothing similar to how a Social Security Number works, but the principles are the same. Aadhaar cards store biometric and demographic information of each individual and such information is held within a database by the UIDAI. Aadhaar is not mandatory although Government offices make it really difficult for an individual to get work done without an Aadhaar card.
Drawbacks of Aadhaar
The Supreme Court heard petitions criticizing Aadhaar some of which included Aadhaar infringing privacy and breach of personal data as listed below:
- A profile of an individual’s spending habits, properties, relationships, etc. can be compiled using Aadhaar card data and information.
- Several cases of data breach have happened. Hacking a centralized database like Aadhaar isn’t too difficult for a hacker.
- Information leaks have happened from Aadhaar third party issuing agencies. Some Aadhaar information is available on a simple Google search.
- In order to open a bank account, buy a mobile number, get a ration card, etc. Aadhaar is required.
- The private sector will have access to Aadhaar information as well.
As per Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, the right to privacy is a fundamental right under right to life and personal liberty. The Aadhaar Act which seeks to make Aadhaar mandatory for availing Government services violates the right to privacy and thereby Article 21 itself.
What does this mean for Aadhaar?
Aadhaar will still continue to exist, as it was before. The judgment of the Supreme Court panel was based on the petitions challenging the validity of the identification scheme, not Aadhaar itself. What will happen is court cases relating to the validity of Aadhaar will be fast tracked under a smaller bench. Aadhaar could be made more secure or stronger data protection laws could be enacted based on future cases. Let’s see!
The Fundamental Right To Privacy
The applicability of the fundamental right to privacy extends beyond the scope of Aadhaar to include other domains on a case-by-case basis. Some of the upcoming cases are related to:
Homosexuality is currently illegal in India as per Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. Still, over 2.5 million Indians have declared themselves under the LGBT status to the Ministry of Health while the rest wait for this archaic law to be abolished. Again, homosexuality is taboo in a Country like India.
2. Marital Rape
Marital rape is not defined in the Indian Penal Code because as per Indian culture, marriage is sacred and marital rape isn’t viewed as rape. In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that if a woman denies her husband sex, it was a form abuse and constitutes grounds for divorce. This law will have to be amended to define marital rape along with a Uniform Civil Code.
3. Criminal Defamation
Criminal defamation is another useless law that restricts the right to free speech and freedom of information. Most countries have outlawed criminal defamation, which is going to jail for saying something against someone. Comedians and journalists have been the targets for most criminal defamation cases in India.
4. Beef Ban
The restriction on the sale and slaughter of cattle is enforced in most States in India. India is the third biggest beef exporter in the world yet we still need clarity as possession of beef leads to lynching in India.
The right to live and die is also another topic that will come up for debate, along with the right to give birth or abort a child. Although, I doubt that the Court would change its current stance on abortion and euthanasia laws.
6. The Right to be Forgotten
The right to be forgotten is asking search engines like Google to remove search results associated with an individual’s name. In 2014, the Court of Justice of the European Union said people could ask search engines to remove such information. India will want to open up this can of worms as well. Watch John Oliver Cover this on Last Week Tonight (Youtube).