Aadhaar law is just, fair & reasonable: Centre to SC

The Centre today justified the Aadhaar Act in the Supreme Court, saying it was a “fair and reasonable law” which complied with the tests prescribed by the historic verdict on the right to privacy.

A nine-judge constitution bench, on August 24 last year, had declared the right to privacy as a fundamental right and termed it as an intrinsic part of right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution.

The Centre today referred to the verdict and said the reasonable restrictions, which are applicable on right to life, would also govern the right to privacy.

It told a five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, which is examining the validity of Aadhaar scheme and its enabling 2016 law, that the privacy verdict provided that State can seek certain information if there is a law, a legitimate state interest and the proportionality doctrine to weigh citizens’ privacy and the State’s interests.

“The lead (privacy) judgment of Justice D Y Chandrachud says that existence of law, legitimate state interest, and proportionality, are the tests to be applied to judge the privacy violation, if any,” Attorney General K K Venugopal told the bench which also comprised Justices A K Sikri, A M Khanwilkar, D Y Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan.

“The Aadhaar Act meets the standards and has adequate safeguards. The Aadhaar Act is a just, fair, and reasonable law. It is in pursuance of a larger public interest, including preventing dissipation of social welfare benefits, prevention of black money and money laundering…,” he said, adding that these were all “legitimate State interests”.

The Aadhaar scheme also satisfies the test of proportionality by showing a rational nexus between the means and the goal, he said, adding that all subsidies were part of right to life with dignity and would prevail over the right to privacy.

Venugopal said a law, which is constitutionally valid, does not become “invalid” on the ground of improper implementation and, moreover, the Aadhaar Act has kept the invasion to privacy, if any, to the minimum level.

Referring to separate concurring privacy verdicts penned by other judges, the Attorney General said they recognised that right to privacy was not “absolute” and legitimate state interests can override it.

At the outset, he read out the answers given by Ajay Bhushan Pandey, CEO of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), to the queries of the lawyers representing those opposed to Aadhaar. Pandey had made a presentation before the top court to allay apprehensions over the Aadhaar scheme.

Venugopal said UIDAI cannot provide authentication failure rates at the state level since it does not track the location of the authentication transactions. Referring to the data, he said the biometric failure rates stood at 6 per cent for fingerprints and 8.54 per cent for iris at the national level.

“It must be stated that authentication failures do not mean exclusion from or denial of subsidies, benefits or services since the Requesting Entities are obliged under the law to provide for exception handling mechanisms,” he said.

In response to a question as to how a leprosy patient or a person who does not have a mobile number, is being enrolled for Aadhaar, the top law officer said, “Aadhaar enrolment is done for all residents, even of residents with Leprosy. Biometric exception process is defined in the UIDAI resident enrolment process.

“In the case of a leprosy patient who may not be able to do fingerprint authentication, iris authentication can be used for update (and add the mobile number). This was the reason for multi-modal enrolment and authentication being selected for use in Aadhaar.”

As part of the exception handling mechanism, UIDAI

 

has already implemented a digitally signed QR code into eAadhaar which allows agencies to verify the Aadhaar card in an offline manner and trust the data, he said.

On the issue of Aadhaar for minors, he said school officials, if permitted to act as ‘introducer’ can enrol only when there is a parental consent to enrol.

Responding to a query whether a child can opt out of Aadhaar after attaining majority, he said “it is not permissible under Aadhaar Act, 2016. However, residents have the option of permanently locking their biometrics and only temporarily unlock it when needed for biometric authentication as per Regulation 11 of the Aadhaar (Authentication) Regulations, 2016.”

The advancing of arguments remained inconclusive and would continue tomorrow.

Earlier, the supreme court had refused to pass an interim order extending the deadline of March 31 for linking of Aadhaar with the welfare schemes where benefits are transferred to citizens from the Consolidated Fund of India.

The bench is hearing on clutch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhaar and its enabling 2016 law.

Ranjit Kumar resigns as solicitor general

Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, the country’s second highest law officer, resigned today for “personal reasons”.

The office of Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad received his resignation letter today.

While Kumar confirmed to PTI that he had resigned, sources close to him said it was for “personal reasons”.

He was appointed solicitor general in June 2014 after the Modi government came to power. His second term as solicitor general was renewed recently.

There was speculation a few months ago that the Supreme Court collegium was considering his name as a judge of the apex court.

Recently, Mukul Rohatgi had written to the government that he was not interested in a second term as attorney general.

Senior lawyer K K Venugopal was appointed as new attorney general.

Right to know a fundamental right, cannot be curtailed: AG to SC

Right to know a fundamental right, cannot be curtailed: AG to SC
Right to know a fundamental right, cannot be curtailed: AG to SC

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi today told the Supreme Court that the right to know is a fundamental right and it cannot be curtailed by banning information on the Internet.

His response came after the apex court asked him to assist in a matter related to banning of pre-natal sex determination advertisements and contents on the Internet.

“There is distinction between information and advertisement. A person out of curiosity wants to know or study some thing. The right to know is a fundamental right and we cannot curtail it,” Rohatgi, who was present in the court room for some other matter, told a bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra.

The bench, which sought the AG’s assistance, said, “We cannot curtail free search. The right to know is a fundamental right. If we stop information, then we stop knowledge, then we stop thinking…”

It said that it has to see whether section 22 of the PNDT Act does not go against the Article 19(1)(a) of Constitution which gaurantees the freedom of speech and expression.

Section 22 of the Act pertains to prohibition of advertisements relating to pre-natal determination of sex and punishment for its contravention.

Advocate Binu Tamta, appearing for Centre, said that it is difficult to control or supervise the content on the Internet but the stand of the other side is that there should be no advertising.

Internet majors Microsoft and Google told the bench that they cannot block the information on the information expressway but they can certainly block the advertisements with regard to pre-natal sex determination under the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PNDT) Act.

The counsel for Google said it will comply with the apex court direction by removing advertisements based on terms linked to gender selection tests but cannot delete the contents with regard to research materials or medical journals.

It said that preventive blockage of the content is very difficult and can only be done by curative blockage.

The Internet maajors said that if the content with regard to pre-natal sex determination is blocked then entire research materials or journals will get blocked.

The bench asked the parties to submit their written submissions and posted the matter for detailed hearing to April 13.

The apex court had on February 16 warned that the declining numbers of the girl child was a “disastrous signal for mankind”, and directed search engines — Google, Yahoo and Microsoft –to set up in-house expert bodies “forthwith” to ensure deletion of materials which went against Indian laws prohibiting pre-natal sex determination.

The court was hearing a petition by Sabu Mathew George, a doctor, who is seeking the court’s intervention in view of the falling sex ratio in the country.

( Source – PTI )

Demonetisation:Don’t see any farmers here, AG to SC

Demonetisation:Don't see any farmers here, AG to SC
Demonetisation:Don’t see any farmers here, AG to SC

“I don’t see any farmers here,” was how Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi reacted in the Supreme Court when lawyers from the opposite side were assailing the implementation of the demonetisation policy by alleging that the district cooperative banks have been discriminated.

“I don’t see any farmers here. This is all bogey,” the Attorney General responded before a bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur when senior advocate Kapil Sibal and others contended that the government was not allowing deposits of old currency notes of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 in the district cooperative banks on which farmers are dependent.

“Who is arguing for whom. Nobody is appearing for farmers.

The petitions are by lawyers. They can’t be considered as public interest litigations,” Rohatgi submitted before the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud.

However, Sibal, appearing for some of the petitioners, said, “The Attorney General should not make fun of us.”

Rohatgi also said that the advocates have filed the petitions and raising objections on the guidelines that fixed a limit of Rs 24,000 withdrawal a week.

“They are making political arguments. Lawyers have filed petitions under Article 32 of the Constitution. Is it their own case?,” he said and repeated that he did not see any farmer challenging the demonetisation notification.

( Source – PTI )

Supreme Court refuses to interfere in FDI in retail policy

In Delhi The Supreme Court refused to interfere with the policy on FDI in retail saying that if it does not stand in Parliament then it would be at government’s peril.

A bench of justice RM Lodha and AR Dave told that the policy making is the “sole prerogative of the executive” and refused to direct the government to place it in the Parliament saying that the Centre might do it on its own in the coming winter session.

It also told that apprehension that the Centre would not place it before the Parliament is “unfounded” and posted the matter for hearing on January 22 after winter session of the Parliament.

“You (petitioner challenging FDI policy)are assuming that it won’t be placed before the Parliament. Your assumption is ill-founded. We would know about it only after the winter session of the Parliament… Lets see whether it is placed before the Parliament or not and then we will see”

“They are at their own peril. They can take risk. If their action action does not stand in Parliament then they made policy at their own peril,” the bench observed when the petitioner contended that the apex court should intervene in the case as a Parliamentary committee has also given opinion against FDI in retail sector.

Section 48 of The Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 says that every rule and regulation made under this Act in order to allow FDI shall be laid before each House of Parliament.

According to the bench the Executive has right to frame policy and it had been “mandated” to rule the country but it has to listen to the Parliament which it is accountable to.

“Policy formulation is the sole prerogative of the executive. Parliamentary committee may advise as philosopher and guide. But what is good is to be decided by the executive. Executive must listen to the Parliament as it is accountable to the Parliament”

“Executive is entitled to have their own perception. It has been mandated to rule,” the bench said adding “We have not said that economic policy must be beyond the judicial review but court should be extremely slow in interfering in policy matters.”

The court was hearing a PIL filed by lawyer ML Sharma, challenging Centre’s policy allowing FDI in retail sector.

In the meanwhile the Attorney General informed the bench that RBI has amended the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) regulations to allow implementation of the government’s policy and it has also been notified.

The lawyer also challenged the constitutional validity of the provision under which companies would be allowed to operate in the country despite not getting approval of the Parliament.

The bench said that it will hear his contentions and the Attorney General on this aspect if it was necessary and adjourned the case.

On the last hearing on October 15 the had refused to stay the Centre’s decision to allow FDI in retail sector saying that the policy suffers from “curable” irregularity of want of legal sanction and asked the RBI to amend the FEMA regulations to allow implementation of the government’s policy.

Sharma has said in his petition that that retail trading is strictly prohibited under the law of FEMA under which the power to come out with a circular is vested with the RBI which has not issued any regulation after 2008.

He has alleged in his PIL that the Centre’s notification was issued without the authority of law as approval of neither the President nor the Parliament was secured.

 

B PTI

Attorney general to appear for PM in Raja case

Attorney General G. Vahanvati will appear in the Supreme Court Tuesday for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to respond to the apex court’s question on why he did not give sanction to launch criminal proceedings against the now disgraced and former minister A. Raja, informed sources said Friday.

Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium will appear in the same case on behalf of the department of telecommunication and Additional Solicitor General Harin Rawal will argue for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the sources said.

The Supreme Court sought to know two days ago why the prime minister did not give sanction to Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy in 2008 to file a case under the Prevention of Corruption Act against Raja, who resigned as the communication minister five days ago over the 2G spectrum controversy.