Curbing State intrusion into privacy

The Supreme Court has, by a majority judgment on Thursday, upheld the right of the State to put ‘reasonable restriction’ on a citizen’s right to privacy by validating the Aadhar scheme. But at the same time has it laid down a lakshman rekha which the State cannot cross in its efforts to make the citizens’ right to almost every service contingent on his having an Aadhar card.  It would have been better if the brother judges of Justice D. Y. Chandrachud had agreed with him in holding the Aadhar scheme as unconstitutional and declared it null and void. That has not happened but the limited relief the apex court has given to the individual citizen is welcome. It is no longer necessary for a citizen to give his Aadhar number to a private service provider to get a mobile phone or a gas connection. But already a large number of them know this. This cannot be undone.
The Congress has welcomed the apex court decision. But it is the UPA Government led by the Congress which made the first assault on the privacy of the individual by introducing the Aadhar scheme which, as Justice Chandrachud has rightly observed, reduces a citizen to a twelve-digit number. The BJP only pushed ahead with the scheme and stretched its ambit to a ridiculous extent. There were cases when the relatives of a dead man found they could not cremate him without producing his Aadhar card. But the dead man did not have one. It passes one’s understanding and comprehension why the fundamental rights of a citizen like the right to education and medical care or of a child to get his midday meal should depend on the Aadhar card.
It has been established with incontrovertible proof that anyone’s Aadhar number can be easily hacked. TV channels have shown duplicate Aadhar cards being sold for money in broad daylight. Once the Aadhar number is known, it is too easy to get one’s PAN number, details of his bank accounts and a lot of other information. This makes the citizen vulnerable to criminals who can hack his bank account and withdraw money without his or the bank authorities’ knowledge. The Aadhar scheme should have been struck down as unconstitutional. It is to be hoped that after the apex court‘s stricture on Aadhar, the Government will desist from going ahead with its reported intention of introducing DNA profiling.of the citizens.

Saturday, 29 September, 2018