India’s top court says privacy is a fundamental right

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NEW DELHI: India’s Supreme Court ruled Thursday that citizens have a constitutional right to privacy, a landmark verdict that could have wide-reaching implications for the government’s biometric program which holds data on over one billion people. Privacy is not explicitly mentioned in the Indian constitution, and the government has argued that the country’s 1.25 billion citizens cannot expect an absolute right to it. But in a brief statement on Thursday, Chief Justice J.S. Khehar said privacy was “protected as an intrinsic part of Article 21 that protects life and liberty”. The judges were unanimous, he said. The Supreme Court set up a special bench to rule on the issue after a legal challenge to the government’s Aadhaar biometric program, which has recorded the fingerprints and iris scans of more than one billion Indians. Aadhaar was set up as a voluntary scheme to streamline benefit payments to millions of poor people and reduce fraud. But in recent years it has become compulsory for a growing number of services, including opening a bank account and paying taxes.

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