Policy Engagements and Blogs

Panel Discussion on ‘Informational Privacy in India: Aadhaar and Beyond

Ananth Padmanabhan

June 12, 2015
8 November 2018
Panel Discussion on ‘Informational Privacy in India: Aadhaar and Beyond’


Watch the full video (above) of the inaugural panel of CPR’s new series, Talking Rights Seriously, on ‘Informational Privacy in India: Aadhaar and Beyond’, featuring Meenakshi Arora, Dr Arghya Sengupta, Zoheb Hossain, Vrinda Bhandari and Ananth Padmanabhan.

The panel discussed 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.

The panel brought 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.

Meenakshi Arora is a Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India.

Dr Arghya Sengupta is Research Director at the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy.

Zoheb Hossain is an Advocate, Supreme Court of India.

Vrinda Bhandari is an Advocate, Supreme Court of India.

The session was moderated by Ananth Padmanabhan, Fellow, Technology & Society Initiative, CPR.

The question and answer session that followed can be accessed here.

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.