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'Just like food and water, people need privacy'

By Syed Firdaus Ashraf
August 24, 2017 12:39 IST
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'Transparency is us watching the government and not the government watching us.
Illustration: Dominic Xavier/

Nikhil Dey was among the activists, apart from Aruna Roy, S Raju, K S Puttaswamy, Shanta Sinha and Kalyani Sen Menon, who challenged the validity of the Aadhaar scheme, saying it was violative of the right to privacy.

On Thursday, August 24, a nine-judge Supreme Court bench ruled in favour of the civil rights crusaders, stating that privacy was indeed a Fundamental Right.


Soon after the verdict was out Nikhil Dey spoke to's Syed Firdaus Ashraf.

Your first reaction on the Supreme Court declaring that right to privacy is a Fundamental Right.

No one has seen the fine print of the judgment yet, but this is a welcome ruling.

I am in rural Rajasthan at the moment and have just come to know about the operative part of the verdict.

As soon as I get to know more, I can tell you more.

What compelled you to file a case over the Right to Privacy?

Why people want privacy is not the question to ask. I feel that just like people want food and water, they need privacy too. It is as simple as that.

And it was shocking to see when the government came in and said privacy was not a Fundamental Right.

The question now is, how they (the government) will look at the Aadhar issue which has been transferred to a five-judge bench. 

There is a fear among many that India will become a surveillance State because of Aadhaar.

Aadhaar is totally a surveillance State.

Every single person can be tracked every moment without them having a choice.

First, it was if you want benefits (government subsidies), then you have to have Aadhaar, and then it came to income tax returns.

Obviously, this can lead to tracking of your every movement.

So this judgment should put a stop to that.

We all are RTI people and we believe in transparency.

Transparency is us watching the government and not the government watching us.

RTI is us watching every move of the government as to what they are doing with public money.

That is what is needed, but here the government is watching every move of every citizen regardless of anything else.

What about the benefits that Aadhaar gives poor people, like the direct transfer of subsidy money reaching their bank accounts?

On that we can have a long discussion and I can send you documents on it.

If there are whatever benefits, that can be made optional.

But now everything is mandatory.

If there are such great benefits of Aadhaar, then the people will take it themselves.

So what does the Supreme Court verdict mean for the common citizen?

I will have to go through the details of the judgment to answer that.

What happens to Aadhaar linking to our income tax returns?

I hope it will not be required and they cannot make it compulsory. I do hope so.

I also hope that they will stop these (private) companies from stealing our data (through Aadhaar).

Can we say after this judgment that we need not fear India turning into a police State in future?

I hope it doesn't.

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Syed Firdaus Ashraf /