Right to Privacy

Overruling its previous two decisions, the Supreme Court of India declared Right to Privacy as a fundamental right protected under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The landmark verdict was passed unanimously by a nine-judge constitutional Bench headed by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar.

The apex court twice in the past has ruled against right to privacy being a fundamental right. The two cases are as follows:

  • M P Sharma & Others vs Satish Chandra & Others on March 15, 1954.
  • Kharak Singh vs The State of U.P. & Others on December 18, 1962.

Article 21 – NO PERSON SHALL BE DEPRIVED OF HIS LIFE OF PERSONAL LIBERTY EXCEPT ACCORDING TO PROCEDURE ESTABLISHED BY LAW.

It must be noted here that Right to Privacy is not absolute. Reasonable restrictions can be put on it, according to the need.

About Right to Privacy:

Privacy is a human right to be enjoyed by every human being by virtue of his or her dignified human existence. It needs not to be supported by any instrument or charter. Privacy includes in its core bodily integrity, personal autonomy, right to self-determination, protection from state surveillance, dignity, confidentiality and freedom to dissent or move or think.

International backup:

  • Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 and Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), 1966, legally protect persons against “arbitrary interference” with one’s privacy, family, home, correspondence, honour and reputation.
  • Article 7 and 8 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, 2012, recognizes the respect for private and family life, home and communications. It also mandates protection of personal data and its collection for a specified legitimate purpose.

 

Itinerary of the case:

  • It all started in 2009 when the UPA government launched its ambitious project under Aadhaar scheme. As a part of the scheme, they started collecting personal details and biometrics of the citizens.
  • They even tried to make Aadhaar mandatory for the distribution of the benefits under welfare schemes.
  • But it raised concern among the people and they started questioning the move. They termed it as a breach of their privacy and a bunch of petitions were filed against it in the Supreme Court.
  • The centre countered that the right to privacy of an “elite few” is submissive to the right of the masses to lead a dignified life in a developing country. They claimed Aadhaar to be a panacea for corruption in public distribution, money-laundering and terror funding.
  • Despite Centre’s vigorous plea the apex court made Aadhaar voluntary and removed the mandate to provide an Aadhaar card for availing benefits.
  • The government then argued that right to privacy was not explicitly stated in the Constitution as a fundamental right and suggested the court that this matter be heard by a nine-judge bench. They relied on previous judgments, which cited that right to privacy was not a fundamental right and informed the court that no other judgment had overruled the same.
  • Hence the Supreme Court constituted a nine-judge constitutional Bench to decide whether Right is Privacy is Fundamental Right or not.

Pros of the judgment:

  • It will prove to be another major milestone in aligning our laws with the international ones.
  • It will restrict the free hand which state was enjoying till now and hence remove some of the unnecessary inferences by the state. (Ex: Phone tapping to gain political mileage.)
  • It will open up the door for some more important discussions and arguments. (Ex: LGBT case, camera surveillance in private space etc.)

 

Cons of the Judgment:

  • It is a jolt in the state’s move in dealing with the leakages in public distribution.
  • These type of judgment will fuel more demands thus increasing the number of petitions and burdening the already overburdened court.
  • Almost all developed countries in the world keep a track of their citizens by collecting their personal data. It helps keep a check on criminal activities and reduces the number of illegal migration. Such judicial over activism will create more rifts between the judiciary and the executives.

 

You may also like to read: Fundamental Rights

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