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The Hindu
The Hindu
The Hindu Bureau

Relationship by marriage does not eclipse right to privacy under Aadhaar Act, says Karnataka High Court

The relationship by marriage does not eclipse the right to privacy under the Aadhaar Act, and the personal data of information of one of the spouses stored in Aadhaar cannot be disclosed at the instance of other spouse without hearing the spouse whose information is sought by the other spouse, said the High Court of Karnataka.

“The marriage by itself does not do away with the procedural right of hearing conferred under Section 33 of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits & Services) Act, 2016. The relationship by marriage, which is a union of two partners, does not eclipse the right to privacy, which is the right of an individual and the autonomy of such individual’s right stands recognised and protected by the procedure of hearing contemplated under Section 33 of the Act,” the court observed.

A Division Bench comprising Justice S. Sunil Dutt Yadav and Justice Vijaykumar A. Patil passed the order on an appeal filed by the Deputy Director General (DDG) and Central Public Information Officer of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI).

HC judge

As Section 33(1) mandates that Aadhaar information can be divulged in certain cases only by an order of a court not inferior to that of a judge of the High Court only after hearing Aadhaar-number holder, the Bench said that the single judge could not have asked the DDG of UIDAI to consider the wife’s plea after hearing the husband, the Aadhaar-holder.

The Bench rejected the argument made on wife’s behalf that relationship of husband and wife after marriage results in merging of the identity of both and accordingly, there could be no objection for divulging the information of spouse at the instance of other spouse.

The UIDAI had questioned the direction of a single judge to consider a plea of a woman, who had sought data form submitted by her husband when he had enrolled for Aadhaar. The single judge had asked the UIDAI to consider her plea after hearing her husband.

The wife, due to matrimonial dispute, had approached a family court in Hubballi seeking maintenance from husband, and the court had granted ₹15,000 per month maintenance to her and the daughter. She had sought the husband’s data from UIDAI under the Right to Information Act to secure his present address and phone number for executing the family court’s order claiming that husband has been ‘absconding’ as he was found not residing in the earlier address.

Can’t be diluted

Consideration of case of the Aadhaar card-holder by a responsible authority as stipulated under the Aadhaar Act cannot be diluted by delegating the same to an inferior authority as the process of the hearing and decision conferred under Section 33 is a non-delegable duty, the Bench made it clear.

While directing the wife to array the husband as a party to the proceeding as she had not arrayed him as a party in the petition earlier, the Bench set aside the single judge’s earlier order and remitted the matter for a fresh consideration before the single judge.

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