India's Attorney-General: Privacy 'Not A Fundamental Right'

from the I-am-not-a-12-digit-number dept

Last month, we wrote about attempts by the Indian government to make Aadhaar, the country’s identity number system, mandatory. This was despite repeated rulings by the Indian Supreme Court that it should not be compulsory for government schemes. Last month, another application was made to the court, asking it once more to forbid the Indian government from requiring the Aadhaar card and a unique 12-digit identification number for its services. During the case, India’s Attorney-General, Mukul Rohatgi, made the following remarkable assertion, reported here by Hindustan Times:

“[India’s] Constitution makers did not intend to make right to privacy a fundamental right,” Rohatgi told the bench, during the hearing of petitions opposing a government order that made the 12-number unique identification number mandatory, especially for seeking government welfare benefits.

As the site Scroll.in explains:

The Attorney General quoted two decisions in support of his proposition — from 1954 and 1963. Those opposing his argument contended that these decisions had been overtaken by the constitutional jurisprudence that had since evolved.

But as well as his purely legalistic arguments, Rohatgi took another, very different angle, telling the court:

It should balance the petitioner’s rights against those of the roughly 700 million people, whose subsidies and welfare benefits were dependent on the “fool-proof scheme.”

Despite this emotional blackmail — give up your privacy, or 700 million people will go hungry — the Indian Supreme Court’s interim order confirmed that:

It is not mandatory for a citizen to obtain an Aadhaar card

and

the production of an Aadhaar card will not be a condition for obtaining any benefits otherwise due to a citizen.

However, the Supreme Court did allow the Aadhaar card and number to be used for a few specific government schemes: those for “distributing foodgrains and cooking fuel, such as kerosene.” So perhaps people won’t want for food or fuel even if campaigners continue to insist that privacy most certainly is a fundamental right, and that making Aadhaar mandatory would infringe upon it.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

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Comments on “India's Attorney-General: Privacy 'Not A Fundamental Right'”

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10 Comments
ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Privacy not a fundamental right

Anyone who says this seriously needs to have 24 hour video surveillance and a GPS monitor. I am getting tired of hearing it. “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.” Cool, don’t mind the 24/7 video drone following you with the video being piped to your own Truman-Show channel.

You’ll see how quickly they spin on their words when its them in the cross-hairs of surveillance. Just look at all the politicians and government employees that woke up this morning to the news that their email addresses were leaked from Ashley-Madison (whether or not that truly means anything, the news media is making a big deal out of it.)

andy says:

Proposal...

I propose that ever time someone attacks our right to privacy that they allow the eff to install cameras everywhere they that person goes, their home their car their office, in fact have someone follow them around during their day with cameras recording every interaction with anyone else. I am sure after a few days they will decide that maybe privacy is important after all. But i believe they would say that their privacy is important for some silly reason.

N K Dutt says:

India's Attorney-General: Privacy 'Not A Fundamental Right'

While I agree that the card will be useful to the poor especially as our Govt food and essential services distribution system is very corrupt. With the Aadhar card, the corruption can be reduced as the distribution can be tracked using the Aadhar card.
I am really surprised with the Indian PM Modi who has become a willing supporter of the Aadhar card. And during his run up to the election, his party was against Aadhar. And the specious arguments by the Attorney General makes me cynical that the politicians like Modi once they come in to power are willing participants in bending the constitutions that guard the citizens.
Perhaps we still have hope in our democracy with the Supreme Court being the last bastion of our constitutional rights.

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