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Right to Privacy

In the nine Judge bench cons-tituted by the Supreme Court, the issue of Right to Privacy is being hotly debated.

Now without going into details of what this right exactly means, the pertinent point is it has already been sacrificed in the altar of stated 'National Security'.

The vital financial data contained in the PAN of all the citizens have been shared with the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID), by a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), between Income Tax Authorities and the said body.

By the original Law, the PAN data is strictly confidential. Section 138 of Income Tax Act stipulated that such data can be furnished only by an Officer in or above the level of Commissioner, and that too under rigorous conditions. Section 280 of Income Tax Act prescribes imprisonment of six months for a public servant who violates the secrecy in contravention of Section 138.

Unfortunately, the provisions of Section 138 have been diluted by a series of notifications. The latest was issued in February 2017, the original practice of sharing data only on a 'need to know' basis has been twisted to remove all restrictions in the sharing of data marked 'private and confidential', and now all the total data in this category are easily accessible to the apex intelligence agency, who are now in a position to profile all the tax payers, 99.999% of whom are innocent citizens, as per will, may be good or otherwise.

In another MoU signed with Cooking Gas Distribution Companies, Income Tax authorities agreed to share all the financial data of Tax payers above 10 lac threshold, to deprive them of the minimal subsidy.

Earlier it was voluntary disclosure, but now it is mandatory, made through backdoor. Now, the mandatory linking of AADHAAR data with PAN data, not only the financial, but all the data of individual citizens, everythingĀ  from A to Z has been made available to external agencies, in gross violation of the privilege of privacy, and the Apex Court is patiently conducting debates after everything done to erode the citizens' rights to decide the status of the right.

Now the stand of the present dispensation is to prove that right to privacy is not sacrosanct or absolute, and can be capped with certain limitations, and this is exactly opposite to the stand taken by the same government in respect of Whatsap privacy cases where they advocated that privacy was a fundamental right.

No wonder, this RSS led government is always characterised by U turns and hypocritical doublespeaks.

[contributed]

Frontier
Vol. 50, No.7, Aug 20 - 26, 2017