From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not Much
Mains level : Aadhaar and associated issues
- In a recent ruling in Jamaica, its top court stroked down National Identification and Registration Act, which would have allowed collection of biometric information from all citizens to be centrally stored.
- The apex court of Jamaica relied heavily on Indian SC Justice D Y Chandrachud’s dissenting judgment on the Aadhaar Act last year.
India comes to scene
- Aadhar data thefts are very well versed in news these days, invoking the dissents for Aadhar.
- Justice Chandrachud had expressed the sole dissenting opinion in a 4:1 verdict that had upheld the Aadhaar Act.
Dissenting opinion matters
- The court referred to Justice Chandrachud’s (JC) observation that when biometric systems are adopted in the absence of strong legal frameworks can pose “grave threats to privacy and personal security.
- Their application can be broadened to facilitate discrimination, profiling and mass surveillance.
- He also referred to JC’s observations about recent trends indicating reluctance of developed countries to deploy biometric technology including scrapping of the National Id Register and ID cards in the UK.
- Justice Chandrachud demonstrated a greater sensitivity to the issues of privacy and freedom that is not as evident in the judgments of the majority.
- He had a clear-eyed view of the dangers of a state or anyone having control over one’s personal information and generally.
Why Indian case is relevant globally?
- Justice Chandrachud’s observation that absence of an independent regulatory framework renders the Act largely ineffective while dealing with data violations.
- A fair data protection regime requires establishment of an independent authority to deal with the contraventions of the data protection framework as well as to proactively supervise its compliance.
- There is a dire need for a strong independent and autonomous body which has the power to examine the operations of the Authority and report to an institution that is independent of the Authority.
Consent at Peril
- Justice Chandrachud had observed that the “proportionality test failed because the Aadhar Act allowed private entities to use Aadhaar numbers.
- It would lead to commercial exploitation of the personal data and profiling without consent.
- Profiling can be used to predict market behaviour and preferences and even influence the choice for political office.
- These are contrary to privacy protection norms. Susceptibility to communal exploitation renders the relevant provisions arbitrary.
- The failure to define ‘services and benefits’ also were unreasonable and disproportionate.
Way Forward: One right cannot be taken away at the behest of another
- The state failed to demonstrate that the targeted delivery of subsidies entails a necessary sacrifice of the right to individual autonomy, data protection and dignity.
- The technology deployed in the Aadhaar scheme reduces different constitutional identities into a single identity of a 12-digit number.
- This infringes the right of an individual to identify her or himself through a chosen means.
- Aadhaar is about identification and is an instrument which facilitates a proof of identity. It must not be allowed to obliterate constitutional identity.