A week after Supreme court upheld privacy as a fundamental right, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that “privacy comes in the way of accountability” and it is a challenge to achieve a balance “between privacy and transparency.” As per an Indian Express report, he said, “The UPA government started Aadhaar without legislative backing. Addressing the Rajya Sabha on March 16, 2016, I had said that even though there is a judgement that says there is no right to privacy, I presume a privacy right. The Supreme Court has used almost the same arguments to grant the right to privacy. But now privacy comes in the way of accountability.” “The balance between privacy and transparency is a challenge,” said Jaitley, while speaking at the first Charti Lal Goel Memorial Lecture on “New India – Politics with Transparency”.
Jaitley elaborated his apprehensions and said, “A bureaucrat may argue that disclosing jewellery holdings hurts his wife’s privacy or in revenue-related matters, a man spending Rs 1 crore could say how he spent it is his private business. The corrupt may thus get a leeway citing privacy concerns.” The Finance Minister spoke at length about the need to bring transparency in the electoral funding and how despite best efforts the system failed to become foolproof to prevent entry of criminals into politics.
As per IE report, he said, “We are not talking about trade union leaders with cases against them, these are heinous offenders. In line with the increased focus on transparency, there is a need to look at electoral funding also. When I was Law Minister in the (A B) Vajpayee Cabinet, I brought a law and Pranab Mukherjee as standing committee chairman further fine tuned it. People making political donations through cheques would get tax benefit. But people were apprehensive about openly flaunting their political colours. That is why it never caught on. Now we are working on the proposal for electoral bonds that I pitched for in this year’s Budget speech. The challenge here is to strike a balance between transparency and getting in clean.”
Calling himself a strong supporter of reforms in Prevention of Corruption in the interest of better governance, Jaitley said, “Even a decision taken in all honesty without any financial transactions if proved at a later stage to have caused losses, can make the person liable for prosecution. Many retired bureaucrats have been thus harassed. Governance cannot happen if officers are scared to take decisions. Atmosphere of distrust is not good for governance.”