Professor Shamnad Basheer yesterday approached the Delhi High Court against Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) seeking a declaration that the Aadhaar scheme has breached his fundamental right to privacy as guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
The petition, filed through Advocates Rupali Samuel, Jhanvi Dubey and Siddharth Sajita, also seeks deletion of all the data that has been compromised or deactivation of the existing Aadhaar numbers.
The initial hearing of the petition took place yesterday before the Division Bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Chander Shekhar. Prof. Basheer was represented by Siddharth Aggarwal.
The petition begins with an amusing ode to Aadhaar which is as follows,
“Grass seemed greener on the Aadhaar side,
Seduced by its spell, I got taken for a ride
Linking my card, not once but twice,
Lulled by its lore and some lies
But soon I found, That Aadhaar was unsound,
Privacy breaches and bunglings galore
Data pirates so desperate to score,
My unique ID is now up in the air
Open to all, both foul and fair,
Yet the “authority” insists that all is well
Link some more…and we’ll all be swell!,
To our courts therefore, I now do turn
For privacy, justice, and a little less burn”
Prof Basheer in his petition states that given the all-pervasive nature of Aadhaar, privacy concerns of his as well as and countless other ‘Aadhaaris’ (a term used to refer to all Aadhaar card holders) have increased manifold.
“By means of the instant Petition, the Petitioner does not intend to challenge the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Act, but is only seeking to establish that the Respondents continue to compromise the security of Aadhaar data through their negligent acts/omissions and consequently violate the fundamental privacy rights of the Petitioner and that of the public at large.”
He states that he was devastated to learn, by way of a series of investigative press reports, that the confidentiality of Aadhaar data and consequently his very privacy, personhood, and dignity, had been breached.
He further states that he was particularly distressed to note that most of these breaches pertained to personal identity data maintained with the Central Identities Data Repository (CIDR), a centralized database containing all information collected from Aadhaar applicants.
The petition seeks that exemplary damages be awarded to the petitioner to deter the government from any such future negligent behavior that compromises constitutional/statutory/common law rights of the petitioner and other ‘Aadhaaris’.
Further, it calls for the appointment of a neutral ombudsman/verification authority for addressing all concerns and complaints at the first level that may arise in the future, in relation to violations of the Aadhaar Act and associated regulations.
The Division Bench, after hearing the plea, noted that since the Aadhaar matter is already being heard by the Supreme Court, it would be appropriate to wait for the outcome of that case.
With this observation, the Bench listed the matter for August 21, while providing liberty to the petitioner to approach the Bench before this date, should any urgency arise.
The petition was filed as part of the latest Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access (IDIA) initiative on promoting public interest lawyering. The initiative aim to raise public interest causes, and in the process train IDIA scholars and volunteers through clinical legal education.
IDIA was founded by Professor Basheer in 2010 to train underprivileged students and help transform them into leading lawyers and community advocates.
The IDIA team working on this petition included public interest fellow Balu Nair along with volunteers Anmol Malhotra, Ankit Yadav, Shilpa Prasad, Vinoothna Vinjam and IDIA scholar Donnie Ashok.