How A Nonagenarian Earned Indians Their Right To Privacy

Many of us shy away at the very thought of challenging the central government because of the consequences we might face. Despite being against some of the actions taken by them, we choose to go on with our own lives and eventually abide by those rules.

But the problem is, when every individual does the same, the government gets away with anything and the common people pay for their inability to speak up. But this wasn’t the case for 92-year-old retiredJustice KS Puttaswamy, whose brave stance ensured that the right to privacy was maintained.

Nipping Aadhar In Its Bud

Puttaswamy was born on February 8, 1926 in Kolar district of the then Mysore state. He studied at the Maharaja College in Mysore and got his degree of law from the Government Law College, Bangalore. He then enrolled as a lawyer in 1952 and was appointed a judge of the Karnataka High Court in 1977 and became part of the Andhra Pradesh Backward Classes Commission.

With decades of judicial experience, Puttaswamy found it odd when the UPA government was upbeat about the biometric project had begun expanding the ambit ofAadhaarby asking the citizens to enroll for it and link the same with various schemes and services.

This was back in 2010 when Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) was already established and had issued the first Aadhaar card by September 2010. The Aadhaar regulator UIDAI had been set up by an executive order and but it lacked a legislative back up. This had left a section of intelligentsia concerned about the government’s extra-legal encroachment of the rights of the citizens and thus a loophole in the system was found.

Then 86-year-old and already retired, Puttaswamy filed a petition in theSupreme Courtchallenging the validity of Aadhaar 2012. He argued that Aadhaar could not be made mandatory foravailing rightsandpublic services.

“During discussions with some of my friends, I realized that the Aadhaar scheme was going to be implemented without the law being discussed in Parliament. As a former judge, I felt the executive action was not right. I filed the petition because I felt that my right was affected,’’ he said.

The Cascading Victory]ies

Meanwhile, severalother petitions piled up before the Supreme Court, which bunched them together. After 5 long years, finally on August 24, 2017, Puttaswamy won the case that was called “Justice K. S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) and Anr. vs Union Of India And Ors”.

A section and sub-section of the Act were struck down, thereby preventing the government from sharing Aadhaar data with private entities and from disclosing data at any point of time.The Supreme Court also inserted several caveats in implementation of Aadhaar project and the use of biometric data of the citizens.

It became a landmark judgement of the Supreme Court of India, which holds that the right to privacy is protected as a fundamental constitutional right under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India. This eventually led to the decriminalization of homosexuality andstriking down of IPC Section 377 that made same sex intercourse an offence.

In a groundbreaking judgement on September26, 2018, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity of the government’s Aadhaar scheme as pro-poor and inclusionary. However, it revoked sections 33 (2), 47 and 57 of the Aadhar Act, thereby scrapping provisions of the legislation that were seen as enabling surveillance by the state.

Now, Aadhaar won’t be mandatory for opening bank accounts, getting a phone connection or school admissions. Also, an Aadhaar holder’s data can’t be disclosed on the grounds of national security. It is however, mandatory to link Aadhar card with PAN card.

Thanks to people like Justice Puttaswamy who never gave up the fight against Aadhar, today we are spared from the pointless-yet-compulsory need to link everything with Aadhar. His continuous efforts have ensured that we as citizens have our own rights and our own say in every decision that we make in our lives.

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