Privacy is a Fundamental Right

In yet another landmark judgment a nine-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has held unanimously that the right to privacy is a ‘guaranteed fundamental right’ under Art 21 of the Constitution, subject to ‘reasonable restrictions’. This right has been contested both by the UPA and the NDA governments. As a sequel to this judgment, that legality or otherwise of the Aadhar card and its mandatory use for certain purposes will now be referred to a five-judge bench of the Supreme Court. By this judgment the Supreme Court has overruled its two earlier judgments that held that the right to privacy was not protected by the Constitution.
The question of privacy arose because of the present and the previous governments’ overzealous insistence on the mandatory nature of Aadhar card for various services. From opening a bank account to filing an income-tax return, from buying a railway ticket or air ticket to applying for a cooking gas connection, from admission to educational  institutions to the right to 100 days’ work, it was necessary to produce Aadhar Card.  The latest government decision made the production of Aadhar card a must even for cremating the dead. This was absurdity carried to the nth degree. 
The Aadhar card contains all the personal and confidential data of every citizen. In the digital age when hacking has become easy, it is possible for anyone with the requisite technical knowhow to have access to such data and misuse it, either for his own benefit or even for criminal purposes. It is difficult to understand the logic why production of Aadhar card should be mandatory for a citizen who has bought a railway or air ticket and wants to enter the train or the airport. The motive behind the introduction of Aadhar card and its ever-widening use for every conceivable service a citizen needs and is entitled to betray a mentality of controlling and keeping under surveillance the life of every citizen. The UPA Government did it; the NDA Government is doing it with a vengeance, as it were.
This mentality does not fit in with the democratic spirit. There is any number of laws in the statute book – and new laws are being enacted – that empower the Government to take action against any citizen who has broken the law, or is suspected to have broken the law, or even is contemplating to break the law or endanger the safety and security of the country. National security is a specious plea which enables the Government to extend its control over the personal life of a citizen. This control should also be subject to ‘reasonable restriction.’

Thursday, 24 August, 2017