The discussion will be streamed through Facebook live on CPR's Facebook page.
About the Series
The Indian Supreme Court has been actively engaged of late with recognising the right to privacy including informational privacy as part of fundamental rights, laying down the contours of free speech and expression in the internet era while revisiting the law of sedition, adjudicating the constitutional validity of criminal laws that are vestiges of a long-gone Victorian era, sensitising personal laws and religious customs to the idea of gender equality and personal freedoms, and framing the scope and meaning of the right to life and personal dignity within the broader context of socio-economic rights that make life meaningful. Similarly, Parliament has begun playing a more active role in this rights discourse by cementing the position of socio-economic rights, hitherto considered part of the non-justiciable directive principles of state policy, within the firmament of statutorily enforceable rights.
With this background, the Centre for Policy Research is starting a new series, Talking Rights Seriously, conceptualised as a discussion platform to critically examine important judicial verdicts and legislative interventions addressing the theme of rights in India.
About the Inaugural Panel
The first such discussion is on the recent Supreme Court verdict on the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Act and the scheme in general, and its implications for the right to informational privacy. The Aadhaar scheme, formally rolled out from 2011 to enrol citizens for the world’s largest digital identities project yet, has attracted considerable public debate and attention. The scheme’s journey through the past seven years places spotlight on various challenges faced when attempting to overcome governance chokepoints through technological means. Of these, the biggest challenge by far has been the rights challenge as no State initiative can bypass constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights to achieve any social goal howsoever desirable. While upholding the fundamental character of the right to privacy in this regard and acknowledging the inherent tension between a datafied society and this all-important facet of human dignity, the Supreme Court in Puttaswamy (2017) also articulated a broad framework to think through and arrive at constitutionally permissible and impermissible tradeoffs. The Aadhaar verdict (2018) is the first real application of this framework and hence critical to India’s rights jurisprudence.
In this inaugural panel, we bring together senior lawyers and experts who have contested and defended the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Act before the Supreme Court, to share their insights on various aspects of this verdict pertaining to informational privacy. In particular, this panel shall explore how the majority and dissenting opinions have appreciated the permissibility of biometric information for identification and authentication purposes and its implications, applied the proportionality test when assessing whether the scheme constituted a reasonable inroad into the right to privacy, addressed the surveillance risks arising from seeding Aadhaar numbers in multiple databases, and weighed the various welfare benefits of the scheme against its privacy concerns.
Meenakshi Arora, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India
Dr Arghya Sengupta, Research Director, Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy
Zoheb Hossain, Advocate, Supreme Court of India
Vrinda Bhandari, Advocate, Supreme Court of India
The session will be moderated by Ananth Padmanabhan, Fellow, Technology & Society Initiative, Centre for Policy Research.
Tea will be served from 6:00 to 6:30 p.m. followed by the panel discussion.
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