“Privacy is the fountainhead of all other rights. Freedom of speech doesn’t have a lot of meaning if you can’t have a quiet space. A space within yourself, within your mind, within the community of your friends, within your home, to decide what it is you actually want to say.” – Edward Snowden
Every time the Government broaches a proposition that is even slightly linked with Aadhar, It ignites debate on individual privacy and national security. This debate was rekindled yet again when Attorney General of India KK Venugopal appearing for Tamil Nadu Government sought to link social media accounts with Aadhar Card. This, he argued, would allow the Government to trace originators of hateful and inflammatory content.
However, such a move has the potential to militate against individual privacy that inheres in article 19(1)(a)- freedom of speech and expression. And Individual privacy is the very sine qua non of this right to free speech. If this right is extinguished, it would be tantamount to ceding control to the State that would have control over every aspect of our life. It would monitor our every movement and consequently, we would be less free, we would not be able to voice our opinion freely without any fear of reprisal from the state.
I know it might seem too improbable, although this is what Orwell had envisioned in his dystopian novel 1984- a surveillance state with fetters on our individual liberty. And if the State keeps encroaching upon our rights with flagrant disregard to the liberties sanctified in our Constitution, that day is not too distant when our state would turn into an authoritarian regime, constantly trampling over our rights liberties under the pretext of national security.
The need of the hour is to recognise the value of our fundamental rights; it’s high time we must rise up to defend our Constitution and right that our forefathers have bequeathed us. It’s also incumbent upon the State to formulate a balanced mechanism to deal with the spread of hate content online and in a way that doesn’t impinge upon our fundamental right.