Jaitley justifies rejection of Aadhaar law amendments

New Delhi, March 18 (IANS) Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday defended the government’s stand on the Aadhaar law and said the Lok Sabha was right in rejecting amendments pushed by the opposition in the Rajya Sabha.

“Had the amendments proposed in the Rajya Sabha been accepted, encroachment on the right to privacy would be much wider,” the minister said in a Facebook post, adding that the Lok Sabha “did not agree” with the views of the upper house.

“The Oversight Committee, on issues of national security, would have consisted of either an auditor or an anti-corruption authority, and the money bill would have gone beyond the scope of the money bill.

“These lacunae would have pushed the Aadhaar law into the realm of unconstitutionality. Obviously, the Lok Sabha did not agree with the above suggestions, and in my view, rightly so,” the minister wrote.

The amendments suggested by the Rajya Sabha to Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2016, were rejected by the Lok Sabha on March 16. The Bill was subsequently passed by the lower house of parliament.

The 2016 Aadhaar law, the minister said, contained stringent provisions both substantially and procedurally with regard to the right to privacy.

He said the core biometric information cannot be shared with any person, even with the consent of the Aadhaar card holder.

“The Congress, using its superior numbers in the Rajya Sabha, forced an amendment to replace the words ‘national security’ with ‘public emergency or in the interest of public safety’. None of these two phrases are well defined. They are vague and can be elastic,” Jaitley said.

The minister said that the opposition-sponsored amendments, as approved by the Rajya Sabha, had certain “lacunae”.

Explaining in details the “potential ramifications” of the five amendments brought by the Rajya Sabha, he said, “There has understandably been an extensive public debate on the need for the unique identity number for each resident and the desirability of not compromising with the right to privacy.”

“I have always strongly believed that, notwithstanding the jurisprudential debate on the right to privacy, it would be essential to recognise that privacy is an essential aspect of personal liberty guaranteed by article 21 of the constitution. The denial of privacy must thus be based on procedure which should be fair, just and reasonable,” he said.

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