Committee set up to deliberate on data protection framework, SC told

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New Delhi, Aug 1 (IANS) The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which is responsible for issuing Aadhaar cards, on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that government has set up a 10-member committee of experts to deliberate on a data protection framework and draft a bill on it.

Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing UIDAI, told a nine-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice J.S. Khehar that the committee headed by former Supreme Court judge B.N. Srikrishna will identify key data protection issues and recommend measures to address them.

The Committee, which also includes UIDAI CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey and Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan, will be required to make specific suggestions relating to data protection to the Central government and draft a data protection bill.

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The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has to submit all necessary information to the committee within eight weeks, so that they may begin their deliberations.

On the question of whether the right to privacy constituted a fundamental right, Mehta told the court that a person’s privacy is protected in various statutes enacted by Parliament and not to be declared as fundamental right.

“The right to privacy is, though an inherent right, is only a common law right.

“Whenever and wherever the competent legislature has found it necessary, expedient or desirable to protect a personas privacy, it has done so by enacting a statute and thus, making a statutory right of privacy.”

“Such common law right which can be protected based upon specific subjects may not be declared as fundamental right on the following grounds and also on the ground that there are no “judicially discernable and manageable standards” to ascertain and define privacy,” Mehta added.

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The nine-judge bench is examining the nature of privacy as a right and also the correctness of two judgments of 1954 and in 1962 which had held that right to privacy was not a fundamental right.

The matter is being heard by the constitution bench in the wake of challenge to the Aadhaar scheme on the grounds of its being violative of the right to privacy.

Petitioners include former Karnataka High Court judge Justice K.S. Puttaswamy, first Chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and Magsaysay award recipient Shanta Sinha, feminist researcher Kalyani Sen Menon and others who have challenged the validity of the Aadhaar scheme on grounds of it being violative of the right to privacy.

The hearing will continue on Wednesday.

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