Marriage Does Not Eclipse Right To Privacy: Karnataka HC On Wife's RTI Plea Seeking Husband's Aadhaar Details.
The Karnataka High Court set aside an order of a Single Judge Bench directing the UIDAI to consider the RTI application of a wife seeking the Aadhaar Card information of her husband under the Right to Information.
The court observed that the relationship by marriage does not eclipse the right to privacy which is the right of an individual.
The autonomy of such individual’s right stands recognized and protected by the procedure of hearing contemplated under Section 33 of the Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits & Services) Act, 2016, the court noted.
The Division Bench of Justice S.Sunil Dutt Yadav and Justice Vijaykumar A.Patil was dealing with a Writ Appeal filed by the Assistant Director General, Central Public Information Officer, UIDAI, calling in question the correctness of the order passed by Single Bench, whereby the petition filed by the wife came to be allowed setting aside the endorsements issued by the appellants/Authorities, rejecting the application of the wife seeking for information contained in the Aadhaar Card of her husband under Right to Information (RTI).
The single-judge bench had also remitted the matter back to the Assistant Director General, Central Public Information Officer, UIDAI, to issue notice to the petitioner’s husband and hear him and thereafter reconsider the application filed by the petitioner/wife seeking information. Being aggrieved, the Authorities filed an appeal.
Background: In connection with the matrimonial dispute between the petitioner-wife and her husband, the petitioner instituted proceedings under Section 125 of Cr.P.C. before the Family Court, Hubballi, which came to be allowed directing her husband to pay monthly maintenance of Rs.10,000/- to the petitioner and Rs.5,000/- to their daughter. The wife faced difficulties in enforcing the order of the Family Court, as the whereabouts of her husband were not ascertainable as he was absconding. Under such circumstances, the wife filed an application under the RTI Act before the CPIO seeking information, in particular, the details of the address of her husband as found in the Aadhar Card.
The said application as well as the first and second appeals were rejected by the authorities. However, the Single-Judge Bench remitted the matter back to authorities to issue notice to the petitioner’s husband and hear him and thereafter reconsider the application filed by the petitioner/wife seeking furnishing of information as sought by her for the purpose of enforcing the order.
In the appeal filed, the authorities submitted that the direction of the Single Judge is in violation of the mandate under Section 33 of the Aadhaar Act, which provides that no order could be passed by the Court relating to disclosure of information, including the identity information or authentication records without giving an opportunity of hearing to such person. They also contended that the amendment to Section 33 of the Aadhaar Act relating to the disclosure of information of the Aadhaar number holder as well as the hearing to be made before the order divulging the information of the Aadhaar number holder is to be made by a Judge of the High Court.
They further argued that there has to be strict adherence to the procedure for disclosure of Aadhaar information only after hearing the Aadhaar number holder as well as the requirement that a hearing has to be made by a Judge of the High Court.
On the other hand, the wife submitted that the information that was sought by the petitioner is as regards her husband and the restrictions placed under RTI Act cannot be made applicable and such restrictions are to be confined to application for information sought for by third person.
She further 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 spouse at the instance of other spouse. The wife also contended that the order passed by the Single Judge in effect takes care of statutory mandate that the Aadhaar number holder is required to be heard before disclosure of information made and since the matter is remitted back to the third respondent with direction to hear him and accordingly, no prejudice would be caused.
Considering the submissions, the High Court noted that by virtue of amendment to Section 33 of the Aadhaar Act changes have been brought in the following manner:- "i) Direction for divulging the information is to be made pursuant to the order of the Court, which is not inferior to that of a Judge of the High Court."
The High Court relying on the afore-said provision accordingly ordered, "The requirement as contemplated under the proviso to Section 33(1) is an order for disclosure to be made by a Judge of the High Court. If that were to be so, learned Single Judge has grossly erred in directing the Assistant Director General, Central Public Information Officer (UIDAI) to issue notice to a person whose information sought to be divulged and to decide whether such information is to be divulged. 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. It is a settled principle that, if the Act provides that particular act is to be made in a particular manner, it should be done in such manner or not at all."
The Court further observed, "A person whose information is sought to be divulged has right to put-forth his case before such disclosure 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. The marriage by itself does not do away with the procedural right of hearing conferred under Section 33 of Aadhaar Act."
The Court accordingly remitted the matter back to the Single Judge and stated that a person whose information is to be divulged is to be arrayed as respondent to the proceedings before the Single Judge. "Before concluding, it is necessary to observe that the rights conferred under Section 33 of Aadhaar Act requires order to be passed by a Court not inferior to that of a High Court Judge and to facilitate such right, the High Court is required to make appropriate provision in the applicable regime for such exercise of right which is a statutory right. With the above observations, Writ Appeal stands disposed off", stated the Court in its Judgement.
Cause Title: Deputy Director General & Faa Central Public Information Officer v. Smt. P. Lavanya [WRIT APPEAL NO. 100406 OF 2023] Source: https://www.verdictum.in/court-updates/high-courts/karnataka-high-court-rti-aadhaar-marriage-does-not-eclipse-privacy-right-1506445 #SairamLawAssociates | #LegalServices | #LegalAdvice | #FamilyLaw | #RealEstateLaw | #Divorce | #ChildCustody | #DomesticViolence | #RCR | #Alimony | #Maintenance | #DowryHarassment | #BailMatters | #LegalDraft | #DocumentsVerification | #DVAct | #MarriageRegistrations | #RegisterAMarriage | #KhataTransfers | #PropertyRegistrations | #PropertyDocuments