Twenty-two eminent citizens have written to the Data Privacy Committee headed by Justice (retired) BN Srikrishna, expressing their concerns about the panel’s composition.
The ten-member committee was set up in July as a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court was hearing petitions on the right to privacy.
Dr Ajay Bhushan Pandey, the chief executive officer of the Unique Identification Authority of India – the agency that oversees Aadhaar enrolments, is a member of the panel. Other members include Department of Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan; Electronics and IT Ministry Additional Secretary Ajay Kumar; CEO of the Data Security Council of India Rama Vedashree; and Dr Arghya Sengupta, research director at the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, the think tank that assisted the government in drafting the Aadhaar Act.
The signatories – including Delhi High Court Chief Justice AP Shah, former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, former Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi, and senior lawyers Prashant Bhushan and Indira Jaising – said they were worried that most of the members on the panel expressed had support for Aadhaar in the the past.
“Some have even taken stands in the Supreme Court to challenge the fundamental right to privacy,” the letter read. “A committee created to look at a fundamental issue which will impact this country needs to be balanced and cannot be biased towards one position, particularly when there might be conflicts of interest.”
The signatories also called for more transparency in the functioning of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, under whose auspices the committee was set up, and urged the government to include more information rights activists in the discussions on creating a data protection framework to ensure that information collected by the UIDAI is not misused and that the privacy of citizens is protected.