"The primary question that arises in the digital trail of Aadhaar is that of the right to privacy. There clearly is a need for a law in India that safeguards the privacy of individuals. Apart from the discourse about the Orwellian state – those who lived through the Emergency years know a bit about that – there is also a sense of vulnerability as individuals are drawn, even pushed, into the connected world, into digitisation.
The preamble of the Aadhaar Act of 2016 describes it as ‘An act to provide for, as a good governance, efficient, transparent, and targeted delivery of subsidies, benefits and services, the expenditure for which is incurred from the Consolidated Fund of India, to individuals residing in India through assigning of unique identity numbers to such individuals and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.’ Arguably any activity of the government paid for from the Consolidated Fund of India – ranging from supply of subsidised grains and LPG, to use of roads and civic amenities, and even, at a stretch, rebates to tax payers – could come under such an umbrella.
The Attorney General has asked in the Supreme Court whether privacy is a fundamental right. The government’s chief lawyer has also stated that ‘The concept of absolute right over one’s body was a myth and there were various laws which put restrictions on such a right’. The contention is borne out by previous judgements, as also by some laws that impinge on the concept of absolute right over the body. But the question remains: of the safety of roughly 3 MB of human biometrics and about the privacy rights of the person who is identified by it.
Preceding and following the fears of data protection, and in the absence of a privacy law, is an unstated question:
Can the Aadhaar platform be converted into a snoop stall?"
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