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India's privacy ruling could disrupt its biometric society

25 August 2017

"It should respect the right to privacy, right to dignity and life", CPI national secretary D Raja said.

In its historic verdict on privacy on Thursday, the Supreme Court had said "nobody would like to be told what to eat or how to dress" while ruling that these activities come under the realm of the right to privacy. "The objective of elevating certain rights to the stature of guaranteed fundamental rights is to insulate their exercise from the disdain of majorities, whether legislative or popular", the bench said. This even after its legal officials were heard arguing against right to privacy during the hearing.

The government on Thursday welcomed the Supreme Court judgement on right to privacy as a Fundamental Right saying SC has only affirmed the government's position on this issue. "There is Google, Facebook, WhatsApp... they are all welcome", the minister said.

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With the nine-judge bench upholding the right to privacy as a fundamental right, the three judges will test the validity of this law on the touchstone of this fundamental right and adjudicate whether sharing of information was a reasonable restriction or it violated the fundamental right to privacy.

Aadhaar was set up in 2009 as a voluntary scheme created to streamline benefit payments and reduce fraud. The biometric identifier is now required for services ranging from getting subsidised cooking gas to opening bank account and obtaining a new phone number.

"Now, in the light of SC verdict, the government should respect the right to privacy", he added. Women's movement across the country lauded the ruling and hailed it as a positive step for the rights of women. "A private person is not an instrumentality of the state", Duggal said. "It started with one particular thing, to give an ID card to people below the poverty line, and slowly it becomes this hydra for everything... now I have a digital leash around my neck".

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Aadhaar was set up in 2009, and while numerous people have benefitted by receiving government payments efficiently, the program had been the victim of a few data breaches, which affected millions, according to Al Jareeza.

The Aadhaar programme has gradually become a key component of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's push to make India a cashless society. And added: "The objective of elevating certain rights to the stature of guaranteed fundamental rights is to insulate their exercise from the disdain of majorities".

However, the court said that the possession of the meat can not be considered as a crime, while striking down the relevant sections of the act. He said the verdict would safeguard individual values and dignity and asserted that Aadhar card usage would snatch away individual rights.

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India's privacy ruling could disrupt its biometric society