28 Nov 2023 7:40 AM GMT
The Karnataka High Court has set aside an order of a single bench which directed the UIDAI to issue notice of hearing to an Aadhar card holder whose wife had filed an RTI application seeking personal Aadhar information, such as his address of service in order to enforce an order of maintenance.The single bench had directed the Assistant Director General, Central Public Information Officer,...
The Karnataka High Court has set aside an order of a single bench which directed the UIDAI to issue notice of hearing to an Aadhar card holder whose wife had filed an RTI application seeking personal Aadhar information, such as his address of service in order to enforce an order of maintenance.
The single bench had directed the Assistant Director General, Central Public Information Officer, UIDAI, to hold a hearing/inquiry and decide whether the husband's Aadhar details could be divulged to his wife.
In observing that an order for divulging information under the Aadhar Act could have only been made by a Judge of the High Court, and not the UIDAI authorities, a division bench of Justice S Sunil Dutt Yadav and Justice Vijaykumar A Patil set aside the single judge's order and held:
“ Single Judge has grossly erred...such power of passing an order to divulge the information is conferred on a Court not inferior to that of a Judge of the High Court in terms of Section 33(1) of the Aadhaar Act. The right to privacy of Aadhaar number holder preserves the autonomy of the individual’s right to privacy which is conferred primacy and admits of no exception under the statutory scheme. 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 recognized and protected by the procedure of hearing contemplated under Section 33."
It added “It is a settled principle that, if the Act provides that a particular act is to be made in a particular manner, it should be done in such manner or not at all. Accordingly, the learned Single Judge could not have remitted the matter to the third respondent-Central Public Information Officer (UIDAI).”
These observations were made by the court while allowing an appeal filed by the Deputy Director General FAA, Central Public Information Officer, UIDAI challenging the single judge bench order dated February 8.
Petitioner P. Lavanya had approached the court seeking her husband's personal details for enforcement of her maintenance order, after the requests made under the Right To Information Act were rejected. The authority contended that the direction of the Single Judge was in violation of the mandate under Section 33 of the Aadhaar Act.
Appellants argued that the amended Section 33 of the Aadhaar Act relating to disclosure of information of an Aadhaar number holder as well as the hearing to be made before divulging such information was to be made by a Judge of the High Court.
It was submitted that this amendment to Section 33 of Aadhaar Act was made pursuant to the direction of the Hon’ble Apex Court in K.S. Puttaswamy (Retired) and Another (Aadhaar) v. Union of India & Another [K.S.Puttaswamy].(2018), which read the Right to Privacy as a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution.
The respondent/wife contended that the information which was sought by her was regarding her husband and the restrictions placed under RTI Act cannot be made applicable as such restrictions were to be confined to the application for information sought by a third person.
It was submitted that the relationship of husband and wife after marriage results in the merging of the identity of both and accordingly, there could be no objection to divulging the information of the spouse at the instance of another spouse.
It was further argued that the order passed by the learned Single Judge in effect took care of the statutory mandate that the Aadhaar number holder was required to be heard before disclosure of information was made and since the matter had been remitted back to the third respondent with direction to hear the husband, no prejudice would be caused.”
Referring to the amended Section 33(1), the bench held “The contention of the learned counsel for the appellants that there must be strict adherence of Section 33(1) of the Aadhaar Act is to be accepted.”
It further noted that by virtue of the observations made by the Hon’ble Apex Court in K.S. Puttaswamy (supra), a person whose information is sought to be divulged has the right to put forth his case before such disclosure in terms of Section 33(1) of the Aadhaar Act.
It observed “Consideration of case of the Aadhaar card holder is to be by a responsible Authority as stipulated under the Aadhaar Act, which lays emphasis on the importance to the right to privacy and the same cannot be diluted by delegating the same to an inferior Authority. The hearing and decision conferred under Section 33 is a non-delegable duty. The above discussion would clearly lead to a conclusion that a person whose information is to be divulged is to be arrayed as respondent to the proceedings before the learned Single Judge.”
The court accepted the undertaking given by the wife that necessary amendment would be carried out to array the husband as respondent in the ongoing writ proceedings before the single bench.
Accordingly, it set aside the order and remitted the matter back for fresh consideration.
Appearance: Advocate Shivraj S Balloli for Appellant.
Advocate Mallikarjunswamy B Hiremath for R1.
Citation No: 2023 LiveLaw (Kar) 451
Case Title: The Deputy Director General & FAA Central Public Information Officer & Another AND P Lavanya & Another.
Case No: WRIT APPEAL NO. 100406 OF 2023
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