Wife can’t unilaterally access spouse’s Aadhar info: HC

BENGALURU: The Karnataka HC has ruled that a woman cannot unilaterally access her husband’s Aadhaar data solely based on the marital relationship, underscoring the autonomy and protection of privacy rights within the statutory framework of the law.
A division bench, comprising Justices S Sunil Dutt Yadav and Vijayakumar A Patil, said marriage does not diminish the right to privacy of an Aadhaar cardholder, and the prescribed procedure must be followed.
The decision came in response to a Hubballi-based woman’s petition seeking her estranged husband’s Aadhaar number, enrolment details and phone number, citing difficulties in enforcing a family court’s maintenance order against him.
Relationship by marriage does not eclipse the right to privacy
The couple tied the knot in November 2005 and has a daughter. Following relationship troubles, she initiated legal proceedings, leading to the family court granting her Rs 10,000 as maintenance and an additional Rs 5,000 for their daughter.
She reported challenges enforcing the family court’s order due to her husband’s unknown whereabouts and him being on the run. Seeking assistance, she approached the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), but her application was rejected on February 25, 2021. The rejection cited the need for a decision by a high court judge under Section 33 of the Aadhaar Act, among other grounds.

Upon moving the single bench for relief, the woman received a favourable decision on February 8, 2023. The single bench directed UIDAI to issue notice to the husband, prompting the agency responsible for handing Aadhaar cards based on personal data to contest the order.
In response, the division bench instructed UIDAI to hear the husband and then reconsider the wife’s application under the RTI Act.
The woman argued that marriage implies a merging of identities, justifying access to a spouse’s information. The division bench, referring to the Supreme Court’s observations, underscored a person’s right to present their case before any disclosure.

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“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 an individual’s right stands recognised and protected by the procedure of hearing contemplated under Section 33. Marriage by itself does not do away with the procedural right of hearing conferred under Section 33 of the Aadhaar Act,” the division bench said.
The HC stressed that the decision under Section 33 is a non-delegable duty and remitted the matter to the single bench for fresh consideration.

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