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Citizens Do Not Have An Absolute Right Over Their Bodies: Govt To Supreme Court

The Logical Indian Crew

May 3rd, 2017

SHARES

Courtesy: SFLCin | Image Courtesy: nytimes | aqusagtechnologi | ibtimes

On 26 April 2017, cases for linking Aadhaar to PAN and making it mandatory for filing Income Tax (IT) returns were heard before the bench of Justice A K Sikri and Justice Alok Bhushan in the Supreme Court.

Senior counsels Arvind Datar and Shyam Divan were representing the petitioners in these cases, Binoy Viswam v. Union of India (W.P.(C)247/2017), S.G. Vombatkere & Anr. v. Union of India (W.P.(C) 277/2017) respectively, while the Union of India was represented by the Attorney General, Mukul Rohatgi.

The session began as the Court heard arguments against the insertion of Section 139AA to the Income Tax Act, 1961 which makes Aadhaar mandatory for filing IT returns from 1 july 2017.

The privacy issues with Aadhaar – data leaks of millions of citizens, and the violation of an individual’s right over their body were also pointed out by the petitioners’ lawyers.






Blanket stay on Section 139AA, restrain from coercive action to link Aadhaar to PAN, and retrain from making PAN invalid were the demands of the petitioners.



On Tuesday, AG Mukul Rohatgi began his arguments and pointed out that Income Tax by its very nature is coercive, but it provides amenities to people. So there is no question of it being in violation of Article 19. Further, he said that Article 21 cannot be invoked merely on the question of taxation. The Parliament is the sole authority to decide the rules of taxation.



To argue against bodily intrusion, he said that citizens do not have an absolute right over their body. “The concept of absolute right over one’s body was a myth and there were various laws which put restrictions on such a right.”






The AG further quoted Rousseau and the social contract theory, and said that the State is like a corporation and the citizens are its members. To avail benefits from the State, we need to comply with the rules and regulations made by it.



The government also made the argument that documents similar to Aadhaar have already been functioning in many countries. US’ social security number was used as an example.


Points to ponder

  • Is the argument ‘if you want comfort from State, you need to comply with the State’s rules’ valid in a democracy?
  • The government cited US’ social security number as an example. But how valid is this argument when the social security number is neither used as a personal identification document, nor carries any biometric information of the citizens?
  • As the Preamble to the Indian Constitution guarantees dignity of individuals, isn’t compelling people to part with their biometric data a violation of the fundamental right to life as guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution?
  • In the 1930s, when the Social Security Number was created, the US government decided not to collect fingerprints, on grounds that “the use of fingerprints was associated in the public mind with criminal activity, making this approach undesirable.” Won’t the same be interpreted by the Indian citizens, that their own government has no trust in them?

Thank you!

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