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Centres contradictory stand on WhatsApp and Aadhaar privacy case

Recently, Government’s Flagship Program Aadhaar was questioned with a violation of privacy. While registering for Aadhaar, UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India) collects all the demographic as well as biometric information such as Fingerprints and Iris Scans. A petition was filed in the court against the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar project primarily against the biometric details of a person which when fall into wrong hands will be an invasion of privacy.

On the other hand, a 5 Judge Constitutional bench led by Justice Dipak Mishra was hearing another petition filed by student led by Karmanya Singh Sareen and Shreya Sethi arguing that the data sharing (This data includes photographs, messages shared by the users of these applications) platform such as Facebook and WhatsApp is a violation of the citizens’ right to privacy. Their lawyer, Senior Advocate Harish Salve appearing for two students also argued that their plea was maintainable as their petition was about the proper regulation should be in place to deal with the issue of data sharing. The petitioner also claimed that the data collected by WhatsApp was used for the commercial purposes.

When this matter came forth the centre before a five judge bench, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) PS Narisimha argued that

service provider or social media platform that shared any personal data which impinged on a person’s Right to Life under Article 21(Right to Life and Liberty) of the Constitution would need to be regulated.

In the hour after hearing of the case, Senior advocate and Counsel for WhatsApp and Facebook Kapil Sibbal argued that the mobile application is not against a regulatory regime and also WhatsApp provides end-end encryption where a third party cannot interfere the privacy and cannot be read even by the company and hence the privacy by the platform is not violated.

Speaking of which, Centres stand on the matter contradicts its stand on the Aadhaar case, which is before the Chief Justice of India J S Khehar and who leads the nine judge constitution bench which is currently examining whether the privacy of a citizen is absolute or conditional.

In Aadhaar case, centre has argued before the Supreme Court that privacy of an individual is not a fundamental right under the constitution. Whereas, their arguments contradicted in the WhatsApp case where they say that a person’s Right to Life under Article 21(Right to Life and Liberty) of the Constitution is absolute and commercial entities threatening that, should be regulated.

Next hearing of the case is on 6th September as decided by the bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra and other Judges in the bench comprising Justice A.k Sikri, A.M Khanwilkar, Amitava Roy and M. Shantanagouder.

The next hearing for the Aadhaar Privacy case is on 25th July. Let’s see how the 9 Judge constitutional bench led by Chief Justice react to this double standards by GOI and how Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi defend it.

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