Tomorrow the Supreme Court of India will decide whether or not Indian citizens have a fundamental right to privacy. This historic decision will have far reaching consequences. A bench of nine judges including the Chief Justice of India, Justice Khehar, Justices Jasti Chelameswar, SA Bobde, RK Agarwal, Rohinton Nariman, AM Sapre, DY Chandrachud, SK Kaul and S Abdul Nazeer have heard the case.
The 9-judge bench deciding this was constituted in August 2015 following a reference made in the Aadhaar/UID case (Puttuswamy & Anr WP Civil No. 494 of 2012) almost 2 years ago. Petitioners, activists, academics and lawyers skeptical of the Aadhaar project have been waiting since then for the resolution of the question of whether or not a fundamental right to privacy will be recognized by the Supreme Court. In the interim period, the Government of India blatantly violated the prior orders of the Court restraining the use and expansion of Aadhaar. As the project has grown, so has awareness of its multiple shortcomings and of the threat it poses to the security and welfare of the country.
It is important to remember that the Union of India has repeatedly in its arguments pressed and submitted that no fundamental right to privacy exists. It has in the course of these, and earlier hearings, almost ludicrously, denied the existence of people’s rights over their own bodies.
We have faith and hope that the highest Court of this land will in its wisdom recognize the fundamental right to privacy tomorrow. But whatever the decision of the Court, this means that the Aadhaar matters will finally resume normal hearing.
Evidence is mounting of exclusion, devastation of welfare programs, inadequacy of legal protections, the threat of mass surveillance and the weakening of national security. The decision tomorrow means that we must be prepared to increase awareness and bring the Court’s attention to the massive violation of people’s rights that is the Aadhaar project.
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