Privacy matters far beyond Aadhaar

The ongoing hearing before a nine-member bench of the Supreme Court on the right to privacy should focus more on the conditions that would warrant its infraction than on its constitutional validity. As Abhishek Manu Singhvi argues in the current issue of ET Magazine, India is party to international conventions that uphold the right to privacy, making it a part of the country’s jurisprudence until a specific piece of legislation explicitly contravenes it. The right to free speech and assembly are fundamental rights, but subject to conditions. Hate speech or child pornography would not pass muster and a mob gathering to lynch someone would be unlawful, not an exercise of the fundamental right to assemble. Thus, even if a right to privacy exists, it would not be an absolute right, but allow similar constraints. It is ridiculous in a country where it is increasingly routine for employees to log attendance pressing their thumb against a flashing electronic reader and for individuals to blithely use their fingerprints to unlock mobile phones to restrict privacy considerations to Aadhaar. The unique identity scheme promises immense benefits, particularly for the less-well-off and the health of the fisc, which outweigh the potential costs of its…

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