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Meghalaya HC directs Centre to enforce AFSPA in Garo Hills

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Shillong: The Meghalaya High Court has directed the central government to enforce the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, (AFSPA) 1958 in the insurgency-ravaged districts of Garo Hills to control the deteriorating law and order situation in the state.

The high court also directed the union home secretary and defence secretary to ensure compliance by placing this order before the central government to consider the use of AFSPA and deployment of armed and para-military forces in the Garo Hills.

It further directed the principal secretary in the PMO to place the order before Prime Minister Narendra Modi for perusal and consideration.

The order of the full bench of Chief Justice Uma Nath Singh, Justice T.N.K. Singh and Justice S.R. Sen, issued late Monday, is significant coming in the wake of the recent kidnapping and killing of an Intelligence Bureau officer Bikash Kumar Singh and businessman Kamal Saha by A’chik Songna An’pachakgipa Kotok militants and abduction of government official Jude Rangku T. Sangma by Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) militants. Sangma was released early Tuesday.

“We have no option but to direct the central government to consider the use of AFSPA in the Garo Hills area and deployment of armed and para-military forces to control the situation in the aid of but certainly not under the command of civil and police authorities till life becomes normal and the incidents of rampant kidnapping and killing are totally stopped,” the court noted.

“We are also not oblivious of the fact that with great power comes great responsibility to exercise self-restraint, especially in the exercise of powers under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, but now since the law and order situation in the Garo Hills has deteriorated beyond redemption, we have no option but to issue certain serious directions in order to protect the civil liberties and fundamental rights of the common citizens as well as the public servants,” the order stated.

Maintaining that the central government can enforce AFSPA for the purpose of deployment of armed forces in the aid of civil administration in order to restore public order and maintain the law and order, the court said: “Such deployment of armed forces would be only for the purpose of enabling the civil authorities in the state to deal with the situation effectively so that there is a regime of rule of law.”

Observing that there was no end to violent incidents perpetrated by Garo National Liberation Army and other militants, including calling bandhs in Garo Hills, the court said: “… the police and civil authorities, despite the best of their efforts, are not able to control the incidents of kidnapping for ransom and killings on non-fulfilment of illegal demands and the native population is totally exposed to the influence of militancy, and the funds allocation by the Central Government has not helped in ameliorating the decline of law and order”.

In its 13-page order, the court also quoted data supplied by the Meghalaya Police on the abduction of 87 people — 25 civilians, 27 businessmen, 25 private sector employees, five government employees and five teachers — for ransom in different parts of Garo Hills from January to October 31 by Garo militants.

“It is also informed that the majority of Garo population reside in villages and they are basically dependent upon agriculture for their livelihood. Though the population is just about seven lakh, yet they are not feeling secured and they have to live totally exposed to the mercy of insurgents who raise all kinds of illegal demands, including food and shelter,” the order said.

Pointing out that even the chief justice and judges of the high court were getting “veiled threats” through anonymous letters, the bench said: “It may not be proper for us to say anything about our security which is, for the present, being looked after by the state.

“Generally, we put all such anonymous letters into shredders but since two of us are to lay our office in January and February, 2016, and third one in March, 2019, one cannot claim to be fully safe and secured.”

The court has fixed November 18 as the next date for hearing of the matter.

(IANS)

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Aadhaar Data Breach Report Incorrect: High Court

Citing the top court's judgement, the petitioner said that when the state violates the constitutional rights of a citizen, courts may award compensation

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Aadhaar Card Logo. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) on Thursday told the Delhi High Court that reports regarding security breach of data related to Aadhaar is incorrect and misleading as the strongest encryption technology has been used to store data which is impossible to decrypt.

“The technology used is 2048-bit encryption, which is the strongest one and it is impossible to decrypt and extract any information even if enrolment packets were accessible during transit to the UIDAI data centre,” UIDAI told a bench of Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice Prateek Jalan.

The bench was hearing a plea seeking exemplary damages for the losses caused due to leakage of Aadhaar data.

The plea was filed by Shamnad Basheer alleging that the dissemination of personal information of Aadhaar holders made it clear that the government is responsible for any breach of right to informational privacy.

E-Aadhaar card.

In an affidavit, the government agecy said that Aadhaar data is fully secured at all times and for further strengthening of security and privacy of data, security audits are conducted on regular basis, and all possible steps are taken to make the data safer and protected.

It further added that there are multiple layers of security at physical level in UIDAI data centres and is being managed by armed Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel round-the-clock.

“The technical architecture of Aadhaar has been structured in such a way, so as to ensure clear data verification, authentication and de-duplication, while ensuring a high level of privacy and information security,” the UIDAI said.

“UIDAI has taken all necessary safeguards, starting from providing standardised software that encrypts the entire data even before saving it to any disk; protecting data using tamper-proofing; identifying every operator in all and every enrolment; and identifying every one of the thousands of machines using an unique registration process, which ensures every encrypted data is tracked,” read the reply copy filed by the UIDAI.

Countering Basheer’s claim, the agency also said that the petitioner is trying to re-agitate the same issues which have attained finality before the Supreme Court and therefore the present petition deserves to be dismissed with costs.

Aadhaar Card. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

It said that the petition is based on a mere assumption that the general public is likely to be aggrieved.

“In the entire petition, there is not even a mention as to how the petitioner is aggrieved by the actions of the UIDAI and how his constitutional rights have been violated to entitle him to damages claimed by him,” the UIDAI said.

Adding that there is no merit in the application, UIDAI, in its reply, said: “The alleged facts (leakage of Aadhaar data) on the basis of which the petitioner has filed the plea are unsubstantiated statements and the information relating to the Aadhaar scheme has been grossly misreported and interpolated to mislead this court.

“The petitioner has pivoted his entire case around the misleading and unverified reports in the media regarding security breach of data related to Aadhaar, which is entirely denied as incorrect and misinformed.”

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The agency requested the court to dismiss the plea with cost as the petitioner has no locus standi to file this application.

The petitioner has said his constitutional rights have been violated due to the negligence of UIDAI.

Citing the top court’s judgement, the petitioner said that when the state violates the constitutional rights of a citizen, courts may award compensation.

Basheer has also requested the court to appoint an independent committee comprising multiple experts to investigate the scope, extent of breaches and the magnitude of harm caused due to data leak. (IANS)