25/08/2017 GS Paper 2, Polity 0 comment

Right to Privacy | Supreme Court Judgement Summary

Introduction –

A nine-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday held that privacy is a fundamental right under the Constitution of India.

“Privacy is intrinsic to the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution and will be included under part III of the Constitution.”, said chief justice J.S. Khehar while pronouncing the unanimous verdict.

What happens after the judgement?

“Right to Privacy” will now find place under Part III of the Constitution of India along with other fundamental rights: right to equality before law, right to various freedoms such as speech and expression/to move freely, right against exploitation, right to freedom of religion, cultural and educational rights and right to constitutional remedies.

Observation of the judges on ‘privacy’-

Privacy is a constitutionally protected right which emerges primarily from the guarantee of life and personal liberty in Article 21 of the Constitution.

Privacy includes at its core the preservation of personal intimacies, the sanctity of family life, marriage, procreation, the home and sexual orientation.

Privacy protects heterogeneity and recognises the plurality and diversity of our culture.

Informational privacy is a facet of the right to privacy.

The submission that the right to privacy is an elitist construct which stands apart from the needs and aspirations of the large majority constituting the rest of society, is unsustainable. It betrays a misunderstanding of the constitutional position.

Government’s response to the judgement –

Government has welcomed the move and reaffirmed that it is consistent with all the necessary safeguards that it has been taking and ensuring in its legislative proposals which had been approved by Parliament. If ‘Right to Privacy’ is a Fundamental Right under Article 21, which is subject to restriction that it can be restricted by a procedure established by law, that procedure established by law obviously has to be fair, just and reasonable procedure.

Impact on Aadhar Scheme –

It is not yet clear if the judgement would directly impact the Aadhar related welfare schemes. It would depend upon the future legislations and the amendments that the Government would pour into the existing legislations. In consonance with the statements issued by the Government, the judgement is merely an extension of the right into the Part 3 domain of the Constitution which can also have reasonable restrictions like other Fundamental Rights.

Hence, any exaggerated analytical response to the judgement is premature with respect to its effect on the Aadhar related welfare and security schemes.

Conclusion –

According to the Supreme Court, maintenance of privacy of an individual requires a careful and sensitive balance between individual interests and legitimate concerns of the State. The legitimate aims of the State would include for instance protecting national security, preventing and investigating crime, encouraging innovation and the spread of knowledge, and preventing the dissipation of social welfare benefits.