What’s the biggest gain for the government?
We do not see it as an achievement. Aadhaar, under the UPA, did not have statutory backing. Crores of data had been collected, including biometric, without legal backing. Once we came to power, we decided the first thing we needed to do was to have statutory backing. I, along with (Arun) Jaitleyji was drafting it, and the preamble said it’s for good governance, for effective delivery of the services. I would say, the Supreme Court judgment has some main features: Aadhaar Act has been found constitutionally valid, and its a 4-1 judgment; Aadhaar Act gives a voice of dignity and entitlement to the poor and that’s how they balance the right to privacy and dignity; Aadhaar promotes good governance, has strengthened accountable governance and economic administration. Why is this judgement historic? … In the leading judgments of the Supreme Court, this will occupy pride of place because it brings a healthy balance between three elements — privacy, dignity and entitlement, and good governance. Privacy is important, but dignity is equally important, for the poor in particular. If you see it in that light, it’s a historic judgment.
Explained | You and your Aadhaar
Amid the criticism over surveillance, snooping and invasion of privacy, do you take this as a moral victory?
It’s a vindication. Vindication because, what was hilarious for me, the biggest supporter of the right to information became the biggest patron of the right to privacy. When they were wearing the jhola of RTI, everything should be open, what I write in my file should be known to them. When Aadhaar came, they became the biggest champion of privacy… The larger issue is upholding a healthy balance between the three. Secondly, it is one of those judgments where the voice of the poor find frequent resonance.
There is already a lot of data with banks, cellphone network companies etc. What will happen to that?
That’s an issue we will have to examine. Maybe, because PAN card and Income Tax are backed by law, it’s legal. We will have to bring in some law. With regard to Section 57… in my tentative view of the judgment, they have said by contract two parties cannot acquire (the data). All these things will have to be considered in detail. If you seek my reply in percentage term, 85-95 per cent of the Aadhaar Act has been upheld. Full Text | Supreme Court Aadhaar judgment
How do you plan to deal with the decision to strike down Section 33(2) (which allows disclosure of information in the interest of national security, on a direction of an officer not below the rank of joint secretary)?
We have to examine it further. I suppose it has to be at the secretary level… What kind of remedial measures are to be taken, we will take them.
How do you see different voices among judges over taking the Money Bill route?
In a democracy, everyone can differ. In judicial judgments, judges can always differ. In today’s judgment, four judges are with us, one is against. That’s a part of it.
How is it going to impact the digital economy?
There is a bright prospect of good digital economy… of one trillion dollars we are working on. When I talk of digital economy, I mean communication and IT in the traditional sense, e-commerce, electronic manufacturing, new technology developments, digital payments etc. The Justice Srikrishna report is already there. We are seeking public’s response by September 30. We will examine them, come up with the law, go to the cabinet and Parliament. It will be a robust data protection law. Recently, I visited Silicon Valley. I was amazed to see that from Stanford to Silicon Valley, India’s digital protection law is awaited.
What will be the government’s first step after examining the judgment?
I can only say that after reading it. Unlike eminent leaders of the Congress party, we don’t disclose our step without reading the judgment.
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