At privacy hearing in SC, ASG says he is like Liz Taylor’s 7th husband, judge asks about 8th

During the course of his arguments in the Supreme Court, Tushar Mehta pointed out that many countries had protected privacy via statutes without making it a fundamental right.

Written by ANANTHAKRISHNAN G | New Delhi | Updated: August 2, 2017 8:12 am
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Arguments before a nine-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on whether right to privacy constitutes a fundamental right are being heard with rapt attention. But the proceedings Tuesday had their light moments when Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta engaged the judges.

Appearing on behalf of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the nodal agency for implementation of Aadhaar, Mehta said his position was like the seventh husband of Elizabeth Taylor — his turn to speak had come after several others . He said on being asked how he felt, Taylor’s husband had replied that he knew how to do it, but didn’t know how to make it interesting.

At this point, Justice R F Nariman, one of the judges on the bench, asked, “What happens to the eighth and ninth?” — the judge was referring to those who were to still address the bench. All present in the court room burst into laughter.

During the course of his arguments, Mehta pointed out that many countries had protected privacy via statutes without making it a fundamental right. Joining issue, Justice Nariman said, “We are told that our neighbour, Islamic Republic of Pakistan, recognises privacy as a fundamental right.”

Mehta was quick on the draw. He said he had heard a story though he could not vouch for its authenticity. A minister from a country with no access to the sea, he said, was visiting Pakistan and found himself at the immigration counter. The official at the counter, on realising that the minister’s portfolio was related to the sea, wondered how that could be when the country did not have access to the sea. The minister replied, “So what, even you have a minister for law and justice.”

At another point, Mehta tried to explain that privacy was perceived differently in different countries. In the West, he said, couples express love publicly but that was not the case in India. Justice D Y Chandrachud quipped “it may be because we are more private”. Justice Nariman echoed: “Brother judge was saying may be we are more private”. At this, Mehta remarked that “there are also some things which we have no problem doing in public, but for which the West needs a washroom”.

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  1. R
    Aug 7, 2017 at 2:25 pm
    Why the United Kingdom's biometrics-linked National Identi-ty Card project to create a centralized register of sensitive information about residents similar to Aadhaar was scrapped in 2010?? The reasons were the massive threat posed to the privacy of people, the possibility of a surveillance state, the dangers of maintaining such a huge centralized repository of sensitive information, and the purposes it could be used for, and the dangers of such a centralized database being hacked. The other reasons were the unreliability of such a large-scale biometric verification processes, and the ethics of using biometric identification.
  2. R
    Aug 7, 2017 at 2:24 pm
    The US Social Security Number has no biometric details, no photograph, no physical description and no birth date. All it does is confirm that a particular number has been issued to a particular name. Instead, a driver's license or state ID card is used as an identification for adults.
  3. P
    Parth Garg
    Aug 2, 2017 at 2:42 pm
    Making light of a serious matter involving 125 Crore Indian citizens.
  4. V
    Vensuslaus Jesudason
    Aug 2, 2017 at 2:10 pm
    Yes, such lighter moments are welcome as they ease tension pervading the courtroom. I wish the legal points, counterpoints, if any, put forth by the rivals had as well been reported.
  5. A
    A disappointed Indian
    Aug 2, 2017 at 2:01 pm
    It is sad to see that this is the level of arguments being presented in the Supreme Court by none other than Additional Solicitor General. It tells about the intellect of the government and judiciary when we are cracking jokes dining room jokes on another country and taking pride in open defecation.
  6. C
    Aug 2, 2017 at 11:55 am
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  7. D
    Aug 2, 2017 at 11:45 am
    Off course, such lighter moments are necessary while discussing such an important intense aspect of our life. But I would like to know the technical / legal points made by the speakers and bench on this issue.
  8. R
    Ram Babu
    Aug 2, 2017 at 11:25 am
    Interesting reportage , thanks for light moments in S.C. !
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