Over time, the legal framework around the right to privacy changed. Since
1800, when the British were in charge of India, the idea of a right to privacy
has been there.
Right to Privacy has many developments. The first judgment of the Supreme Court
on right to privacy was that it is not a fundamental right. (M P Sharma v.
After 9 years since the M.P. Sharma case
, Justice Subba Rao's dissenting
opinion in Kharak Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh
, which addressed the
right to privacy, proved to be a bright spot. Although the right to privacy has
not been named a basic right by the constitution, he asserted that it is
nevertheless a crucial aspect of human liberty.
A three-judge panel of the supreme court ruled in the case of Govind v. State
of Madhya Pradesh
that the right to privacy is protected by the basic right
guaranteed by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. (Article 21 discusses the
preservation of life and individual freedom)
In 2018, there was a significant development in the Right to Privacy, because of
the case of Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd) vs Union of India
The Aadhaar Case
An exclusive identifying number with twelve digits called Aadhaar is given to
Indian residents by the national government. Every citizen of India has their
information, including demographic and biometric information, recorded and
verified by Aadhaar. It is regarded as an identity card.
There was a bill introduced in 2016, named The Aadhaar Act. It has some sections
which were an encroachment on the Right to Privacy.
The main issues in The Aadhaar Act, 2016 were violating the right to privacy:
- Allowing commercial agencies to utilize Aadhaar violates the Bill's
stated goals and objectives.
- Sharing Aadhaar-collected information.
- Information disclosure to intelligence or law enforcement authorities.
- Possibility of profiling persons.
- The UID authority has the exclusive ability to file complaints.
- Personal information gathering.
- Ambiguity in biometric information specification.
- The time frame for keeping authentication records.
A case was filed against the Act. (Case name - Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd)
vs Union of India
There were 3 main issues discussed in the Supreme court:
- Was the Aadhaar Act, which was passed by Parliament as a Money Bill,
- Does keeping a record of biometric information goes against the right to
- Does it violate the rights to equality and dignity to make Aadhaar
essential for receiving subsidies and benefits under Section 7?
Here, we will only talk about the 2nd issue which is regarding the Right to
There Are Two Main Points Regarding The Right To Privacy In The Judgment:
- Section 57 of the Aadhaar Act, 2016 was struck down and was held
unconstitutional as Section 57 allowed private entities to collect citizens'
Aadhaar details. This Supreme Court stopped private entities to take the
information of the citizens.
- In addition, the Supreme Court invalidated the law's National Security
Exception. By limiting government access to the data, the government was
able to indirectly increase the privacy of an individual's Aadhaar
The "just, fair, and reasonable criteria" served as the foundation for the
judgment's Majority Opinion.
As per the majority, the court uses Article 19 for the Reasonable restriction.
The majority also dismissed all the arguments regarding the surveillance state.
Their view in this was that there is a minimal collection of biometrics as they
see Aadhaar not collect data like transaction, location, and purpose.
The panel determined that only individuals with a reasonable expectation of
privacy are protected by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution and that not all
matters relating to an individual are covered by the right to privacy.
The dissenting decision by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud was very fierce in that he
held that the Aadhaar act is unconstitutional.
His main observation was fear of infringement of privacy.
He said that it is now difficult to live in India without Aadhaar, but that
doing so violates Article 14 of the Indian Constitution. He noted that if the
Aadhaar is seeded with every other database, there is a high risk of privacy
Even after all of this the Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019
was issued which allowed banks and telecom operators to collect Aadhaar details
as proof of identity.
It is a case of contradiction and risk. Aadhaar is still violating the right to
privacy after the ordinance as it gave telecom operators and banks to take data
from Aadhar. I agree with the decision of the court in the case of Justice
K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd) vs Union of India
. Their judgment stops most privacy
infringements of Aadhar.
The dissenting decision by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud had an observation that it
is now difficult to live without Aadhar. In my opinion, the observation is true.
Even if there is an against stand regarding the ordinance which states Aadhar
details to be shared with banks and telecom operators, it has made the opening
of bank accounts and buying sims easy, quick and hassle-free. It allows your
information to flow smoothly and verification of your details very quickly.
The fear of infringement will be there in citizens but to remove the fear, the
government should first give the citizens a sense of safety and it can only be
done by creating a structure of safety around the information.
I think the answer for 'Is the UID a password to unlock our privacy?' is Yes but
can be turned to No if a sense of security and transparency can be given by the