The Centre on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that the committee headed by Justice B N Srikrishna (retired) to look into various aspects of data protection will finalise its report by March this year. Attorney General K K Venugopal conveyed this to a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra during hearing on a batch of petitions challenging the Constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Act.
Appearing for the petitioners, senior advocate Shyam Divan contended that there are concerns about the personal information collected by UIDAI from subscribers being shared with private entities. To this, Justice D Y Chandrachud, who was on the bench, said, “which is why we persuaded the attorney general to put it to the government to come up with a law, and they responded”.
“And it will ultimately come out in March,” Venugopal quickly added. He told The Indian Express later, “The committee had said it will be able to come out with its report — not merely related to Aadhaar but (on) all aspects of cyber security — by March.”
Continuing his arguments for the third day, Divan told the bench — headed by CJI Misra and comprising Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar and Ashok Bhushan — that the Aadhaar Act requires subscribers to update their biometric data, and this is a recognition of the fact that a person’s biometric data may change in his or her lifetime.
The petitioners’ security concerns is that this data is not the proprietary right of the government, Divan said. The technology employed to store them etc, are with foreign entities, which have been shown to have collaborations with foreign intelligence agencies, he argued.
Justice Chandrachud asked the counsel what the argument on security fears had to do with the Constitutional validity of the Act. Divan replied that the architecture of the programme is unconstitutional because of its reach, and the stature which enables it is also unconstitutional. “It can’t be reconciled with a democratic society”, he said. The senior advocate said individuals in the digital age are “entitled to protect” themselves, and if they feel their safety will be in peril, then they are entitled to protect themselves. “They must have choices,” he contended, adding: “democracy entails choices”.
“In a welfare state, there are huge points of interaction between an individual and state. You have a complete surveillance state if this is allowed to stand,” he submitted. Divan claimed that although Aadhaar Act says that “core biometric information” of subscribers will not be used for any purpose other than generation of Aadhaar numbers and authentication under the Act, it is still possible to know the movements of a person if the time of authentication, requesting entity and purpose of authentication is known.