Right to privacy case: SC asks where does one draw the line?
The stand of the UIDAI is different from what the central government had told the court.
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Stretching for the second week, the hearing in the right to privacy case continues at the Supreme Court. Appearing for the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) - the parent nodal authority for Aadhaar, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the Supreme Court that a vague, incoherent right of privacy can only be found in common law and under no circumstances can it be protected as a fundamental right.
This stand of the UIDAI is different from what the central government had told the Supreme Court. The Centre, represented by Attorney General KK Venugopal, had argued that only certain aspects of privacy can be argued to be fundamental rights. The Centre had conceded that privacy as an amorphous right does have certain aspects which can be traced to Article 21 of the Constitution.
However, the nodal authority under the government told the bench of nine judges that it must be left to the legislature to decide under what circumstances privacy needs to be protected.
Mehta argued that if in certain circumstances there are aspects of privacy which require adequate protection, Parliament shall do so but the courts must not tread to define privacy.
Justice Chandrachud questioned where does one draw the line? "In the age of information, where does one draw the line? What is the place of individuality and what are the contours?" he asked. The bench also questioned Mehta that under what circumstances will privacy become fundamental or need protection.
Justice Nariman observed on a lighter note that people in India need more privacy because we are more “private” people. There has been continuous insistence by the Centre, UIDAI and other BJP-ruled states which have made a representation before the Supreme Court that judgments from the US and UK should not be applied to India. Their contention has been that, as a developing country, India has different needs and circumstances.
Justice Nariman observed on a lighter note that people in India need more privacy because we are more “private” people.
Centre versus States
After Kapil Sibal made a representation to the Supreme Court on behalf of Congress-ruled states in the matter, the BJP-ruled states have made a beeline with their intervening application. Ace lawyer Sundaram argued for Maharashtra, while Rakesh Dwivedi argued for Gujarat. Other states have also filed intervening applications to balance the political argument of the Centre versus the states.
It was also informed to the Supreme Court on Tuesday that a specialised committee has been formed to look into the issue of data protection. The Centre has aggressively batted for the privacy debate to be looked into the context of Aadhaar.
It remains debatable whether data protection would be covered under the right to privacy or it would be taken as a standalone aspect which can only be subject to statutory protection.
The arguments are likely to conclude on Wednesday.