Odisha News Insight

SC verdict on constitutional validity of Aadhaar likely on Wednesday

ONI Bureau:  The Supreme Court will likely pronounce on Wednesday its verdict on the batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhaar on grounds of it being violative of the fundamental right to privacy.

Besides the validity of Aadhaar, the verdict on challenge to the tabling of Aadhaar as a money bill will also be important as it would have a bearing on the powers of the Lok Sabha Speaker.

The five-judge constitution bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.K. Sikri, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Ashok Bhushan had reserved the verdict after hearing the petitions for over 38 days starting January 17 this year.

Besides the constitutional validity of Aadhaar on the touchstone of right to privacy, the other issue, if Aadhaar is to stay, what would be the scope and width of its applicability.

As of now Centre has issued 139 notifications, practically touching every aspect of a citizen’s day-to-day life, making Aadhaar linking mandatory.

An offshoot of challenge to Aadhaar scheme on the grounds of it being violative of right to privacy was that a nine-judge constitution bench examined the issue and in August 2017 had held that the right to privacy was a fundamentals right.

The August 2017 verdict holding privacy a fundamental right is likely to impact the Aadhaar verdict.

While holding that the right to privacy was a fundamental right, Justice Chandrachud in his August 2017 judgment had said, “Apart from national security, the state may have justifiable reasons for the collection and storage of data. In a social welfare state, the government embarks upon programmes which provide benefits to impoverished and marginalised sections of society.”

He had said: “There is a vital state interest in ensuring that scarce public resources are not dissipated by the diversion of resources to persons who do not qualify as recipients.”

However, Justice Chandrachud had qualified the collection of data with legitimate State interest saying, “But, the data which the state has collected has to be utilised for legitimate purposes of the state and ought not to be utilised unauthorizedly for extraneous purposes. This will ensure that the legitimate concerns of the state are duly safeguarded while, at the same time, protecting privacy concerns.”

These were the grounds that were argued by the Centre in defence of Aadhaar before the constitution bench.

Speaking on data protection in August 2017 judgment Justice Chandrachud had said, “Informational privacy is a facet of the right to privacy. The dangers to privacy in an age of information can originate not only from the state but from non-state actors as well.”

In the course of the Aadhaar hearing, the constitution bench had described data as a “goldmine of commercial information.”

In the right to privacy judgment, the court had “commended” the Union Government the “need to examine and put into place a robust regime for data protection.”

“The creation of such a regime requires a careful and sensitive balance between individual interests and legitimate concerns of the state”, the court had said in 2017.

While holding the individual data is a goldmine of commercial information, the court had in the course of the Aadhaar hearing had said that Aadhaar was not a panacea for all ailments of governance and frauds.

The petition challenging the Aadhaar scheme — when it had no statutory backing which eventually came by 2016 AadhaarAAct — was first moved by the retired judge of Karnataka High Court Justice K.S. Puttaswamy.

The legal battle against Aadhaar from the day one was led by senior counsel Shyam Divan who appeared for Justice Puttaswamy and later represented other petitioners as well.

Divan had earned the ire of Attorney General K.K. Venugopal for describing Aadhaar an electronic leash and comparing the collection of Aadhaar data akin to “concentration camp” and “totalitarian regime.”  (IANS)

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