Bill on data protection to be ready by March, Centre tells SC

The Centre on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that the much-awaited bill on data protection -- being drafted by a committee of experts headed by Justice B.N. Srikrishna (retd) -- would be ready by March.

Attorney General K.K. Venugopal gave the information to a Constitution Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.K. Sikri, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Ashok Bhushan, which is hearing a batch of petitions that challenged the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Act as violative of the fundamental right to privacy.

The expert committee headed by Justice Srikrishna -- a former Judge of the apex court -- has Department of Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan, Unique Identification Authority of India head Ajay Bhushan Pandey, MeitY Additional Secretary Ajay Kumar, Indian Institute of Technology-Raipur Director Prof Rajat Moona, National Cybersecurity Coordinator Gulshan Rai, Indian Institute of Management-Indore Director Prof Rishikesha Krishnan, Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy's Arghya Sengupta and Data Security Council of India's Rama Vedashree as its members.

Continuing his arguments, senior counsel Shyam Divan took the court through the Aadhaar Act provisions to demonstrate that under the statute itself the demographic and biometric data of Indian citizens could be shared with private entities.

As the apex court said that if there were "deficiencies" in the Aadhaar scheme's implementation, resulting in leaks, the same could be plugged, Divan said: "It (collection of data) can't be reconciled with (working of) a democratic open society. The entire programme is bad as everyone is entitled to protect himself/herself against exposure of their demographic and biometric data.

As Divan dwelt on the scope and ramifications of various provisions of the Aadhaar Act, Justice Sikri said that 'let us assume that Aadhaar is constitutionally valid; still, we will have to decided whether it can be used for disbursal of subsidies or can be extended to other areas as well".

Justice Sikri said a line has to be drawn and the same can't be breached. Beyond that, it will be violative of privacy, the court observed.

In another poser, Justice Chandrachud asked if data collected under the Aadhaar scheme would be used only for the purposes for which it has been collected, would it ward off the dangers about which fears have been expressed before the court.

"All our personal data is anyway with private hands (collected by private agencies). Does interpolation of Aadhaar number make any difference," Justice Chandrachud asked, pointing out "we are living in an extremely networked world".

Telling the court that the way Aadhaar was being linked with everything "you will have a huge proliferation of data for the purpose of identification", Divan said: "Lift your imagination much higher than where we are", understand the implications of the state possessing the biometric data of the citizens.

Telling the court that the only thing that remains a secret is the one that goes with the demise of a person, senior counsel Kapil Sibal said that there was nothing secret in the world.

He said the question here is the purposes for which Aadhaar numbers can be used, its extent and proportionality if it had to be shared with private entities.

The Constitution Bench is hearing challenges to the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar scheme on the touchstone of the fundamental right to privacy on a batch of petitions by former Karnataka High Court Judge K.S. Puttuswamy, Magsaysay awardee Shanta Sinha, feminist researcher Kalyani Sen Menon and others.

Appearing for Justice Puttuswamy and others, Divan will continue his arguments on Wednesday.



(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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