Post Mortem

Defending the right to privacy

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 1/9/2019 11:41:59 AM IST

 The successful passing of a historic bill in Lok Sabha to amend the Aadhaar law giving its citizens freedom to provide their Aadhaar number for availing services such as bank account and mobile number among others is nothing less than a triumph for the commoners in their existential battle against the manipulative and evil design of the state to arbitrarily curb their privacy’s right under the pretext of “in the interest of the state”, “for the nation’s security” etc… This comes four months after the wise intervention and direction from the honorable Supreme Court of the country, on behalf of the citizens, declaring the government decision for providing of biometric ID mandatory for mobile connection, opening bank account, school admission and competitive exams as illegal, which otherwise the law had the potential of becoming an instrument for seriously challenging and infringing upon the individuals’ right to privacy. 

This court ruling and the subsequent passing of the bill comes as a huge respite for the commoners as they will now be free from the unnecessary burden and pressure of receiving constant call from the concerned authorities for linking their bank account and mobile number with their Aadhaar number by giving them certain deadline. This latest historic verdict that favors common people should make way for further amendment to the law that should make the whole of Aadhaar enrollment process itself as voluntary exercise. 

An individual’s right to privacy constitutes the very essence of life and existence. It is a natural and inalienable right endowed by Creator to every individual which help him/her to assert himself/herself as a unique being. For the granting of this right to the individual does not required to be agreed by any consenting parties nor has the establishment/government any right to interpret and redefine in order to fit to their convenience. 

In Part R (168) of the landmark Supreme Court verdict on right to privacy in August 2017 read, “Privacy postulates the reservation of a private space for the individual, described as the right to be let alone. The concept is founded on the autonomy of the individual…. The notion of privacy enables the individual to assert and control the human element which is inseparable from the personality of the individual”. This observation from the court is all about defending the rights of the individual’s privacy in the midst of a threat from the state. Aadhaar law clearly violates the right of privacy as it enforce upon its citizens to surrender their unique identification mark like fingerprint, iris and biometric mark which will help the state to keep each and every citizens under strict surveillance. Not contented with those present features of Aadhaar, government is now even wants to extend its surveillance program by taking face identification from its citizens. This has left us wondering what step the authority would initiate next in their relentless quest to have an unlimited access on the life of an individual.

If national security or fighting corruption is the reason for initiating any legislation then the entire citizens of the nation should not be held for a ransom for the serving that purpose. In 1933 when German national parliament was burned down, the German government of the day initiated a new law that makes everyone a suspect, and empowered authority to persecute anyone on mere suspicion. The ‘Reichstag Fire Decree’ was passed which suspended most of the civil liberties in Germany, including “freedom of expression and freedom of the press, the right of free association and public assembly”. This is how Nazi Germany takes undue advantage of the burning of their parliament building to impose burden on its citizen and consolidate its power over the people. The government of India cannot effort to replicate this model to create terror of restriction in the life of its citizens just for the sake of atoning its failure. For the tragic failure on the part of the government to recover black money or prevent Mumbai attack in 1993 and 2008 and parliament attack in 2001 citizens of the country cannot pay the price of it by surrendering their freedom for rights to their privacy. The rights of the citizens cannot be exchange for providing security to the nation, which is the sole responsibility of the authority. It would also be too cruel on the part of the ‘welfare state’ to ask from its citizens, especially from the poorer sections, to surrender their basic human right for the sake of availing some benefits from government. The worst possible outcome of this government’s surveillance program is that it would make every individual a potential trouble maker or suspected terrorist who, therefore, needs to be forever kept under scanner.

India should not forget that it had produced one of the finest person in history and greatest champions of human right who among many things fought against a law that discriminated Indian in South Africa. Mahatma Gandhi was famously known for his opposition to the Transvaal Asiatic Registration Act 1906 that specifically targeted Asians (Indians and Chinese) where every male Asian members living in the country are required “to officially register and produce on demand a thumb-printed certificate of identity” failing which they were threatened with deportation “without a right of appeal or fined on the spot”. Gandhi opposed this law in the form of pressuring the authority by mobilizing mass support and providing free legal aid to those affected by the law. It is this Gandhi’s vision of non-violence, peace and respect for individual’s right to privacy is what had inspired the world to strive for living a life of dignity and honor, had help India got her independence and whose life and teaching still inspire the world today. 

If India adored Mahatma Gandhi and take pride of gifting him to the world, which they have every right to, then the nation cannot contradict with his vision and teaching from his native place. Seven decades after independence, India, a free and democratic country, a land of Gandhi, and its people, the sons and daughters of Gandhi, cannot effort to create a new control system, in the name of nation’s security and ensuring transparency, to enslave its citizens and placing them under the yoke of new form of slavery called Aadhaar.

Launched on December 3,1990. Nagaland Post is the first and highest circulated newspaper of Nagaland state. Nagaland Post is also the first newspaper in Nagaland to be published in multi-colour.

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