Vulnerability of personal data for Aadhaar violation of rights, SC told
Justice D.Y. Chandrachud described the entire episode as "scary"
The Supreme Court on Wednesday was told that vulnerability of citizens' demographic and biometric data collected under Aadhaar to leaks is itself the violation of their right to privacy. "Vulnerability (of personal data collected under Aadhaar to leaks) is violation of rights," senior counsel Kapil Sibal told the five judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra.
Appearing for West Bengal government, Sibal said that the functioning of the digital world was vulnerable to the sabotage and pointed out no other country in the world has such a centralised demographic and biometric data of its citizens. Telling the court that there was "no system of the world that can't be hacked", he said if one goes to railway booking counter and feeds Aadhaar number, then it would reveal all journeys they had undertaken by trains in the past.
Pointing out that same was the case with air journeys, Sibal asked: "Why should the state know where I am going and what I am doing?" At this, Justice A.K. Sikri recounted how he once took his wife for a Chinese dinner and asked for a rice dish they had eaten during their last visit five months back but whose name they ere not able to recollect. After a short while, the waiter returned with the print-out of their five month old bill.
Justice D.Y. Chandrachud described the entire episode as "scary". A statute, Sibal said, has to be "consistent with the provisions of the constitution" and citing Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act, 2016 asserted that the provision, it was a person's choice to produce Aadhaar number to establish their identity.
When Justice Ashok Bhushan said that under the said provision, Aadhaar can be used to establish the identity of the persons under other statutes, Sibal said that any interpretation other than that it was voluntary to use Aadhaar for establishing one's identity would be "horrendous". As Justice Bhushan asked: "What is wrong with one nation, one identity? We are all Indians", Sibal said: "Yes we are all Indians. Passionately Indian. But we are more than our Aadhaars."
Further dwelling on his arguments, Sibal said, "Digital world knows more about you, than you know about yourself." He told the court that there is an app called "moodpanda which rates and tracks your mood"and in a lighter vein told the bench "We would love to use it to see Your Lordships' mood in the Aadhaar case."
"Unlike smart cards which require several pieces of sophisticated equipment such as a card skimmer and card printer in addition to sophisticated software and advanced technical knowledge, most biometric readers in India today can be defeated by a child with no technical knowledge using Fevicol and wax," he claimed.
Besides West Bengal government, the former Karnataka High Court judge K.S. Puttuswamy, Magsaysay awardee Shanta Sinha, feminist researcher Kalyani Sen Menon and others have assailed the constitutional validity of Aadhaar Act on the touchstone of the fundamental right to privacy. Hearing will continue on Thursday.
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