Should national security trump individual right to privacy?

MP Shashi Tharoor and others in attendance at the panel discussion at Tata Literary Festival.   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

The importance of national security vis-à-vis personal security was discussed in a debate that marked the first day of the Tata Literary Festival at the National Centre for Performing Arts (NCPA) in Mumbai on Thursday evening.

The panel consisted of BJP vice-president Baijayant Panda, writer and historian Hindol Sengupta, Congress leader and Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor, and journalist and former Aam Aadmi Party member Ashutosh with veteran journalist Siddharth Bhatia in the chair.

Mr. Sengupta argued that India could take a leaf from the U.S. when it comes to national security, because the stringent policy implementation had prevented a repeat of the 9/11 happen ever again. “National security is more important because it includes personal security as well,” he said, citing the example of the role that CCTV cameras had played during and after the November 26, 2008, attacks in Mumbai.

Mr. Panda, who introduced the Data (Privacy and Protection) Bill, 2017, said, “Consent is important when we talk about convenience and privacy. It is extremely difficult to live the life of a hermit in the 21st century. This is why national security is essential. One cannot specify who is a terrorist, considering there are sleeper terrorists, and cities like Mumbai that have been the target, should not be vulnerable at any cost.”

However, Mr. Ashutosh and Mr. Tharoor negated his point, holding that individual privacy is about individual liberty and no unrestrained power should be given to the State. “Only a Parliament led by one man and dictated by his ideals can pose a threat to a security of the nation. Terrorism, according to me, is of all colours, be it red, blue or even saffron,” Mr. Ashutosh said.

Mr. Tharoor was of the opinion that one’s right to be left alone is one’s own dignified stance at how they want to live. “Most governments are encroaching the personal security of citizens in the guise of protecting national security. If you want to rent a flat it should be up to you, not the government,” the lawmaker said.

Both Mr. Tharoor and Mr. Ashutosh called for a system of targeted surveillance rather than scrutiny of every individual.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2021 3:38:28 AM |

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