An Urgent Need for the Right to Privacy

Posted by Sumandro Chattapadhyay at Mar 16, 2016 09:40 AM |
Along with a group of individuals and organisations from academia and civil society, we have drafted and are signatories to an open letter addressed to the Union government and urging the same to "urgently take steps to uphold the constitutional basis to the right to privacy and fulfil it’s constitutional and international obligations." Here we publish the text of the open letter. Please follow the link below to support it by joining the signatories.

 

Read and sign the open letter.

 

Text of the Open Letter

As our everyday lives are conducted increasingly through electronic communications the necessity for privacy protections has also increased. While several countries across the globe have recognised this by furthering the right to privacy of their citizens the Union Government has adopted a regressive attitude towards this core civil liberty. We urge the Union Government to take urgent measures to safeguard the right to privacy in India.

Our concerns are based on a continuing pattern of disregard for the right to privacy by several governments in the past. This trend has increased as can be plainly viewed from the following developments.

In 2015, the Attorney General in the case of *K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India*, argued before the Hon’ble Supreme Court that there is no right to privacy under the Constitution of India. The Hon'ble Court was persuaded to re-examine the basis of the right to privacy upsetting 45 years of judicial precedent. This has thrown the constitutional right to privacy in doubt and the several judgements that have been given under it. This includes the 1997 PUCL Telephone Tapping judgement as well. We urge the Union Government to take whatever steps are necessary and urge the Supreme Court to hold that a right to privacy exists under the Constitution of India.

Recently Mr. Arun Jaitley, Minister for Finance introduced the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016. This bill was passed on March 11, 2016 in the middle of budget discussion on a short notice as a money bill in the Lok Sabha when only 73 of 545 members were present. Its timing and introduction as a money bill prevents necessary scrutiny given the large privacy risks that arise under it. This version of the bill was never put up for public consultation and is being rushed through without adequate discussion. Even substantively it fails to give accountable privacy safeguards while making Aadhaar mandatory for availing any government subsidy, benefit, or service.

We urge the Union Government to urgently take steps to uphold the constitutional basis to the right to privacy and fulfil it’s constitutional and international obligations. We encourage the Government to have extensive public discussions on the Aadhaar Bill before notifying it. We further call upon them to constitute a drafting committee with members of civil society to draft a comprehensive statute as suggested by the Justice A.P. Shah Committee Report of 2012.

Signatories:

  • Amber Sinha, the Centre for Internet and Society
  • Japreet Grewal, the Centre for Internet and Society
  • Joshita Pai, Centre for Communication Governance, National Law University
  • Raman Jit Singh Chima, Access Now
  • Sarvjeet Singh, Centre for Communication Governance, National Law University
  • Sumandro Chattapadhyay, the Centre for Internet and Society
  • Sunil Abraham, the Centre for Internet and Society
  • Vanya Rakesh, the Centre for Internet and Society

 

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