Privacy is fundamental right: Government's double standards now exposed
If the Union government was all for privacy as a fundamental right, why was the Attorney General arguing against it? This question embarrassed the Narendra Modi government after it claimed that it had been in favour of privacy as a fundamental right all along. The arguments placed before the Supreme Court by the government and its final reaction to the apex court's verdict only exposed the double standards of the government.
After the BJP attempted to give credits to Modi government for the Supreme Court's order deeming Privacy a fundamental right, internet and privacy activists attacked the government. 'Save the Internet' co-founder Nikhil Pahwa was one of the first to highlight that no earlier governments had ever contested privacy as a fundamental right. The UPA, as well as the previous NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, worked on the idea that it was already a fundamental right.
4. Ashok Desai, AG under Vajpayee govt, said that they always operated based on the idea that privacy is a fundamental right.— Nikhil Pahwa (@nixxin) August 25, 2017
If this was not proof enough, submissions made by the union government during the hearing of the matter gives clarity. "There is no general or fundamental right to privacy under the Constitution. Privacy is a concept which does not have any specific meaning or definition and the expression is inchoate," reads a submission made by the Attorney General for India. The submission even states that the Government has been critical of the recognition given to a general right of privacy.
Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, as soon as the Supreme Court upheld privacy as a fundamental right, tweeted that the government too was of the same opinion. His tweet received massive flak with netizens exposing the government's double standards when it came to privacy.
In May, the government had submitted to the Supreme Court that 'citizens didn't have absolute right over their bodies'. The Attorney General had told the Supreme Court that citizens can't refuse Iris scan, fingerprinting etc. While Union Minister Arun Jaitley attempted to draw the difference between fundamental right and absolute right, it did little to save the government's face.
Many raised some simple questions. If the government never contested privacy as a fundamental right, why would the matter go before a 9-judge bench of the Supreme Court? If the government believed that privacy was s fundamental right, who then was the Attorney General arguing for? If the government and petitioners were all on the same side that privacy was a fundamental right, why was there a case in the first place?