Shyam Divan, Challengers’ advocate says the whole Aadhaar network was to be used for everything

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought to know if the Aadhar scheme were to be declared legal can it be used for all purposes or only for limited purposes.

“Even if it is valid, can it be used for everything or only for limited purposes,” said Justice A K Skiri, who is part of a fivejudge bench examining the legality of the all-pervasive Aadhaar scheme. Senior advocate Shyam Divan, who is representing some of those who have challenged the legality of scheme, said the whole Aadhaar network was to be used for everything and everybody. He pointed out that in a democratic framework governed by the Constitution, a citizen should have the option of protecting himself by refusing to share crucial information about himself with anybody and everybody. “A citizen should have the choice of providing alternative means of identification,” he said, especially if spread of the information exposes him and makes him vulnerable.

Divan argued that the silos of information, which includes biometrics being collected under Aadhaar, may not per se be violative of a person’s privacy, but aggregated today would enable the state to profile every citizen’s life, making India a surveillance state. He said a citizen’s right to privacy included the right to lead a dignified life. This includes the right to keep one’s intimate affairs to oneself.. In addition, he should enjoy the right to be left alone and the right to retain his identity from cyber attacks. Seen in this backdrop, the state can only take away his privacy by a law for a legitimate state interest, which must pass the test of reasonableness.

He pointed out that both in the pre-statute period and the days following the law, there was no rigour to the Aadhaar enrolment process. The quality of data being collected under self-certification was also questionable, he argued. The government could also, if it chose, erase the Aadhaar data and denude any citizen of all his civil rights under the Constitution, he argued. “The programme, in its invasiveness, reach and the amount of control it will give the state, militates against an open, liberal, democratic society.” ‘The bench, led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, wondered if such fears were valid in a networked age when citizens have to part with data at every stage to avail services.

source ET