The Attorney General has argued that citizens do not have the fundamental right to privacy. That the citizen should be open to scrutiny by the government other bodies of authority for ‘national interests’. That their body or their data is not a right of their own. The AG states that this is because the right to privacy is an ‘amorphous’ right.
Let’s look up the synonyms of the word amorphous. They are terms like vague, shapeless, formless, fluid and unstructured. So the rights to privacy is formless and vague. The citizen is expected to become transparent to surveillance and possible misuse of data for which our defense/ refuge lies in a law or a right which is vague, shapeless, formless, fluid and unstructured?
Is that not a contradiction in itself?
Does not the AG’s confession or statement that the right to privacy is vague, not beg for a more structured, determinate, tangible, transparent law that can possibly save the citizen from governing bodies abuse of one’s own data and private space?
Since we are going so deep into the matters of the private by collecting biometrics of individuals, should there not be a law or institution in place to ensure that the data and privacy is safeguarded?
Or does the government expect that the citizen be transparent to the government and other agencies and it itself remain vague, opaque indeterminate to its citizens? Should we as citizens not know what the exact nature of the law is that governs us? Should we as citizens not know the intentions/ use/ abuse of our own data by governing bodies?
Is that even a fair proposition?
Right to privacy lies embedded in the urgent need of the government to collect data or intrude into the personal space of the individual.
Right to privacy is a law which should have been in place when the first act of surveillance was co-opted as a governmental policy. It is ridiculous that the government is arguing for no privacy rights and yet demands that the citizen be totally exposed to the whims and fancies of the government and its lawful/ unlawful agencies.
That the AG has pronounced that privacy is amorphous should make for grounds that we have a more structured institution in place before we crawl any further into the lives and decisions of the citizens.
As a citizen I refuse to be vulnerable to the whims of a vague law and over bearing government, hell bent on surveillance of my every move. If the Adhaar is meant for making my life more secure, then without a right to privacy I am left doubly insecure about my security. I do not love and trust the government blindly. I cannot put my faith in ‘amorphous’ rights. As a citizen and a rational person I need a concrete defense against the state. The state has the duty to be transparent in its operation to the citizens especially if it demands the same form the citizen. It is give and take, that simple.
Debjanee is a research scholar at the Centre for Political Studies in JNU.