Govt forms panel to suggest data protection framework

Bruno Cirelli
Agosto 2, 2017

UIDAI is the agency responsible for issuing Aadhaar cards, the subject of a large number of cases on privacy, database security and other issues being heard in the Supreme Court.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has constituted an experts committee to study and identify key data protection issues and recommend methods for addressing them, an official statement said here on Tuesday.

The committee, which will be chaired by former Supreme Court judge Justice BN Srikrishna, will have nine other members including Unique Identification Authority of India Chief Executive Officer Ajay Bhushan Pandey and Research Director of Vidhi Center For Legal Policy Arghya Sengupta. "Even in some developed countries like U.S., privacy is a right is fairly limited", Mehta told the court, adding that countries like China and Qatar do not consider privacy as a constitutional right.

"There are worldwide conventions to which India is a signatory".

A five-judge Constitutional bench of the Supreme Court had, on July 18, referred the question to the nine-judge bench of whether the right to privacy is a fundamental right. "This can be done only by Parliament", CA Sundaram told the bench.

The debate came up after the government claimed in court while defending the Aadhaar scheme that citizens had no fundamental right to privacy. That is introduction and not interpretation. The government has insisted that privacy was a "valuable", "common law" right, but not a fundamental right.

During previous hearings, non-BJP states have opposed the Centre's stand that privacy was not a fundamental right. "If there is any violation of privacy, statutes can take care of it".

He had said, "informational privacy" could not be a right to privacy and it could not ever be a fundamental right. This would require legislative deliberations.

The bench, headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar, also referred to the fact that India was a signatory of a 1948 worldwide convention which recognised privacy as a human right.

On Aadhaar, Mehta submitted that it is a "classic case where human privacy is protected to the maximum".

While several petitioners including Karnataka High Court judge Justice K.S. Puttaswamy and Magsaysay Award victor Shanta Sinha and researcher Kalyani Sen have challenged the validity of the Aadhaar scheme in the Supreme Court, the government has maintained that Aadhaar could not be used a tool for surveillance.

Justice D Y Chandrachud, who was on the bench, pointed out that there must be some "overarching principles" in protection of privacy rights and that "every holder of information must disclose the objective for which it is sought for and introduce some guarantees that it will not be used for any goal other that the objective for which it is sought for".

The hearing will continue on Wednesday.

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