HYDERABAD: Expressing concern over the safety and security of data — such as Aadhaar number and caste particulars of owners of agricultural and non-agricultural land which are being collected for updating land records on the Dharani portal — the Telangana High Court has questioned the State about the basis on which it is collecting the data and its purpose.
A division bench on Tuesday said prima facie, the portal makes it mandatory that the Aadhaar number is entered but such requirement is not backed by any law. Also, none of the rules under the Information Technology Act have been included for the protection of the data. In fact, there is no mention in the new Revenue Act either regarding data protection, it said. The information kept in public domain, if accessed by a third party or abused by the State government, will pose danger to the Right to Privacy and it be an irreparable loss to the people, the bench said.
“Nowhere has the government stated the steps taken by it to protect the data. It is patently an illegal act on the part of the government as it is not backed by any law,” the bench observed.The bench directed the authorities concerned not to ask non-agricultural land owners for their Aadhaar and caste details, and also not to collect such data from those owning agricultural land. It also told them not to pass on any information collected so far to third parties, even if they file an RTI application.
The bench passed this interim order in PILs filed by advocates Gopal Sharma and Saaketh Kasibhatla. It was also hearing another PIL challenging the State’s decision for the entry of non-agricultural properties and personal information of citizens on Dharani in the name of the integrated land management system. Senior counsel D Prakash Reddy, appearing for petitioner Gopal Sharma, informed the court that there was no provision in the Revenue Act, 2020 seeking Aadhaar and other details to update land records. Without any backing of the law, how could the government declare that citizens cannot conduct any transaction pertaining to their land without entering such details on the Dharani portal, he asked.
After hearing the submissions, the bench asked the State Advocate General BS Prasad to inform about the steps taken for security of the people’s data. Referring to media reports that the Dharani portal has already been hacked, the bench said it appears that the government has not taken adequate preventive measures to protect citizens’ data. AG sought two weeks to file a detailed counter affidavit. The bench posted the matter to November 20 for further hearing.