The Centre on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that a poor starving man will have no second thoughts about shedding his privacy rights to enrol for Aadhaar, as it gets him a square meal and earnings.
With this, the government asked the Supreme Court to not stand in the way of crores of citizens willing to voluntarily enrol for Aadhaar to get social benefits and services.
The government's line saw the Bench led by Justice J. Chelameswar retort with a question whether "just because somebody is poor and starving, he should not have his privacy".
Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi said Aadhaar is taken voluntarily and is an "informed choice" made by the citizen.
"I do not have information on which I make this "informed" choice. That is, I do not have a complete picture of what will be done with the information I part with... You can use it for snooping, surveillance," Justice S.A. Bobde responded.
"Can you speak for 100 crore people? If a person has a problem with using Aadhaar, don't use it. People, who survive on daily wages, people who don't have food to eat need a foolproof mechanism like Aadhaar. But here you are speaking of apprehensions of a few on privacy rights... you are not speaking for the country," Mr. Rohatgi countered.
The bench on August 11, 2015, had made Aadhaar optional except for public distribution system and LPG connections. Various State governments, including Gujarat and Jharkhand along with central bodies such as RBI, SEBI, TRAI and the Pension Regulatory Authority returned to the court saying the August order had become a roadblock for people with Aadhaar to enrol in other social benefit schemes.
"Why should the Supreme Court of India deprive a vast section of the country from the benefits due to them? When a poor man says 'here take my privacy, please give me money', Your Lordships are saying 'don't take the money, please retain your privacy'," senior advocate K.K. Venugopal submitted in support of the AG's contentions.
Mr. Rohatgi said the Supreme Court cannot shut its doors on 50 crore people suffering because of its interim order confining the use of Aadhaar to PDS and LPG schemes.
"This is a court, which opened its doors for a man on death row at 2 am, it cannot close its doors on 50 crore people now," Mr. Rohatgi said.
Appearing for various petitioner NGOs, senior advocate Shyam Diwan said biometric data is harvested from citizens without any statutory sanction or administrative authority.
"Biometrics, my iris and fingerprints, is my most private personal property. Biometrics is me. But this personal unique data is harvested from millions of citizens by corporates with former FBI and CIA men at the helm. Government has no clue what they are doing with the data," Mr. Divan argued for outright dismissal of any pleas to modify the August 11 order.
To this, Mr. Rohatgi countered that Aadhaar is a voluntary scheme and does not require the force of law in the forum of a statutory sanction or the like.
The Bench posted the matter for orders at 3.30 pm on October 7.