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Mainstream, VOL LV No 37 New Delhi September 2, 2017

Why should you Worry unless you have Something to Hide?

Saturday 2 September 2017


by Ram Krishnaswamy

In the last seven years every time I opposed Aadhaar and said it was a Frankenstein monster the creators will not be able to control and it invades our privacy, my opponents never hesitated to attack me personally and tell me “unless you have something to hide why should you be worried?” This meant that any one and everyone including activists who have spent their lifetime serving various communities in India, all had something to hide.

Transparency does not mean walking naked in the park; the same way every individual has a right to his/her own privacy.

What is Private/Privacy one may ask?

Virtually anything and everything that an individual does not want to share with anyone. Meaning all-encompassing. It is upto the individual to decide what is private and what is not?

The Privacy Case has gone on for some time in the Supreme Court of India, with a nine-Judge Constitutional Bench which was to determine if the Indian Constitution recognises the Right to Privacy of its Citizens.

Finally Truth and Justice prevailed when the nine-Judge Supreme Court ruled on August 24, 2017 that the Right to Privacy is “Intrinsic to Life and Liberty and is inherently protected under the various fundamental Freedoms enshrined under part III of the Indian Constitution”.

Lawyers often have the unenviable job of having to put forward arguments they themselves do not believe in. This is perhaps what made senior lawyers representing the Indian Government say things in court that were ridiculous and jaw-dropping bloopers. Obviously they had very little to defend their positions in the debate.

Here are a few arguments that will make you laugh:

Mukul Rohatgi — Former Attorney General of India:

“The invasion of privacy is of no consequence because privacy is not a fundamental right and has no meaning under Article 21. The Right to Privacy is not guaranteed under the Constitution, because privacy is not a fundamental right Article 21 of the Indian Constitution refers to the right to life and liberty.”

My Comment: Sir please think about this: “There can be no right to life or Liberty if there was no right to Privacy.”

Mukul Rohatgi told the Supreme Court that the right over one’s body is not absolute and called the arguments of bodily intrusion to take biometric data for Aadhaar as “bogus”. His added that Aadhaar biometrics are no more intrusive than photographs used in other identity documents andthat an individual does not have absolute authority over their body because the government was already regulating abortions in women and collecting fingerprints from criminals. The A-G also argued that the leaks did not come from the central database and so the Aadhaar database cannot be called unsafe.

Me: I feel like saying “Oh Yeah Over My Dead Body, Mr Rohatgi.”

Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal for the Centre: Privacy is not a single, homogenous right but rather as a bunch of rights spread over the Constitution. The right to privacy is a sub-species of the fundamental right to personal liberty and consists of diverse aspects. Not every aspect of privacy is a fundamental right. Some citizens cannot agitate against Aadhaar, saying it is a violation of their right to privacy. An elite few cannot claim that their bodily integrity would be violated by a scheme which serves to bring home basic human rights and social justice to millions of poor households across the country.

My Comment: Good spin, Mr Venugopal, but nowhere near Prasanna, Bedi, Chandrasekar’s standards. To argue that it is only the elite who are challenging Aadhaar in the Courts is sad. The millions of poor households across the country you talk about are struggling to earn Rs 100 a day and have no Voice in India. The elite few you talk about are in fact, Sir, the “Voice of India”, God-sends like Judge Puttaswamy, Usha Ramanathan, Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Jean Dreze, Reetika Khera, Bezwada Wilson, Shanta Sinha, Kalyani Menon Sen, Sudhir Vombatkere (an IIT Alumnus, same as Mr Nilekani), Dr Anupam Saraph and hundreds more working behind the scenes backing our leaders. Mr Venugopal, Sir, will you go to the Supreme Court against an elected Majority Government represented by legal Eagles like yourself? I do not think So.

Additional Attorney General Tushar Mehta representing UIDAI:

What is so great about my fingerprints? I touch a file, I leave my fingerprints. These are all perceived ideas of privacy. We should aim to use technology to the maximum for the betterment of human beings. Aadhaar has 115.15 crore people enrolled, that is, 98 per cent of the population. Privacy is non-negotiable, confidentiality is non-negotiable under the Aadhaar Act. Privacy cannot be inserted as a new fundamental right into the Constitution.

My Comment: What is so great about your Finger Prints you ask, saying you leave it behind on everything you touch. Sir, suggest you watch some Crime Channel and get a better idea of the value of your finger print and for that matter your own DNA. An American Citizen Brandon Mayfield living in Oregon was accused and arrested by FBI of the 2004 Madrid train bombing, after the FBI wrongly found a partial match from their Finger Print database. Can Indians trust a database containing fingerprints of a billion Indians considering our corrupt bureaucracy sending innocent people to jails for crimes not committed by them?

You say: “Privacy is non-negotiable, confiden-tiality is non-negotiable under the Aadhaar Act.” Are you serious? Please check with your family members if they value and want their privacy before going down this path. Sir.

Senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi for the Gujarat Government: Transparency is a key component in the modern age and providing basic personal information could not be covered under right to privacy.

My Comment : Sir, Dwivediji, Transparency does not mean walking naked in the park, does it?

Senior advocate C.A. Sundaram for Maha-rashtra Government: Privacy is not a funda-mental right but only a “concept”. Constitution makers had considered and rejected the idea of privacy as a fundamental right. For something to be a fundamental right, it has to be tangible and exact. Privacy has no exactitude, in fact, the concept of privacy varies from person to person. If made a fundamental right, it would open a flood of litigation.

My Comment: Sir, Sundaram, I am sure you will agree that India’s Constitution came into effect on January 26, 1950 and is the longest written constitution of any sovereign country in the world, by a drafting committee headed by Ambedkar as the Chairman and respected as the chief architect of the Indian Constitution. Sir, that was 67 years ago when in India only the urban elite had toilets. Surely, Sir, you did not expect “Privacy” to be spelt out then in the Constitution. Since 1950, Sir, there have been at least 101 amendments to the Indian Constitution. And these amendments have been brought about by Attorney Generals and Lawyers like yourself for the Government on behalf of the people the Government represents...

Now that the nine-Judge Supreme Court ruled on August 24, 2017 that the Right to Privacy is “Intrinsic to Life and Liberty and is inherently protected under the various fundamental Freedoms enshrined under part III of the Indian Constitution”; this should open a flood of litigations as you suggest.

PM Modiji: “NPR and UID Aiding Aliens.”

Sir, a Senior BJP Leader said in September 2102: “I do not agree to Nandan Nilekani and his madcap (UID) scheme which he is trying to promote.”

“NPR and UID Aiding Aliens,”This is what you said before the elections.

A nation of 1.3 billion people who were fed up with the corrupt UPA II Government led by PM Manmohan Singh, adored you, respected you and voted you and your BJP Party in with an overwhelming majority. The Nation was ecstatic to see the Congress Party annihilated. The Nation had never seen anything like this since Independence. Finally we have a Prime Minister who cares and is a genuine leader we thought and were all looking forward to the “Achhe Din” that you promised the nation. I was there at the Acer Arena in Sydney to see you and listen to you and my family who were with me said: “Wow, what a speech? What a paradigm shift from an PM we never heard from for 8 long years.” I told everyone that PM Modi will usher in Rama Rajya that has been predicted here right now and every one agreed.

As someone who has opposed Aadhaar from Day 1 for all the right reasons, I was hoping and praying that you will retain Aadhaar only for distributing Government subsidies to the BPL population and scrap the rest as promised by all BJP MPs in their election manifesto. We understand, Sir, you were uncertain about Aadhaar that you willingly implemented in Gujarat as the CM and it is also great that we have a PM who listens.

But then, Sir, you listened to a billionaire like Nandan Nilekani with a National Agenda of not just “removing ghosts nd duplicates from beneficiary lists of welfare programmes, Aadhaar can help India save Rs 50,000 crores which would help the fiscal deficit”. Sir, Nandan is entitled to his billionaire views as he has never visited a village in India ever and knew more about the slums in New York.

Sir, this is where you got hoodwinked into believing that Aadhaar for the entire population was an answer to every problem in India.

Sir, I am sure you are personally aware that the looting in PDS is not happening in the last mile by the needy poor who depend on subsidised grains supplied by the Government. Sir, you, I am sure, are aware that the looting of Government subsidies takes place in procurement supply to the State governments by the Central Government and then again the nearly 1.5 lakh fair price distribution shops in the nation. You do not expect Nandan to understand this as he was born with a silver spoon and mixes and dines with the world’s richest.

Sir, the People of India elected you whole- heartedly and welcomed you with open hands and we have all been waiting formiracles to transform the nation. We believed that each and every state in India will attain the standards of Gujarat.

Unfortunately, Sir, all that we have seen in the last three years is Aadhaar for Subsidies and more and more of Aadhaar which is voluntary and not mandatory but UBIQUITOUS suggesting the Government has taken its entire population for fools.

Sir, at a public meeting when there are thousands of supporters who applaud you, what do you see? Do you see people who are depending on you to help them and raise the standards of living and create jobs or do you see them as mere NUMBERs meaning Aadhaar Numbers?

Now that the nine-Judge Supreme Court Bench, the largest ever, has made its ruling on “Right to Privacy”, a Wise PM like yourself can do another about-turn tell the people you are sorry and were misled and that Aadhaar will now apply only to Government Subsidies as per the Aadhaar Act and not Pan card, passport, Voter’s card, Driving Licence etc etc etc. Please do not reduce the entire nation into Creatures with Unique identification numbers. Privacy suggests that all Indians have a right to live with Pride and Dignity without Government intrusions and surveillance.

Sir, a flawed system like the Pan card can be fixed easily if people incharge wanted to sans Aadhaar. It is the Corruption within the Indian Bureaucracy that has given rise to thousands of fake Pan cards Fake licences and even fake passports. There are simpler ways.

PM, Sir, please remember: the people who backed you and we want to back you again at the next elections.

A blogger based in Australia, the author has consistently opposed Aadhar. This article was put up on his blog.

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