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Is Privacy a fundamental right? Supreme Court verdict today

By Deepika
|

New Delhi: A nine-judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court will at 10. 30 AM on Thursday pronounce verdict on whether the right to privacy can be held as a fundamental right under the Constitution.

Supreme Court of India

The bench headed by chief Justice J S Khehar had on 2 August reserved its verdict after hearing marathon arguments for six days over a period of three weeks, during which submissions were advanced in favour and against the inclusion of the right to privacy as a fundamental right.

Who are the judges?

Besides CJI Khehar, the other judges of the nine-judge bench are Justices J. Chelameswar, S A Bobde, R K Agrawal, R F Nariman, A M Sapre, D Y Chandrachud, S K Kaul and S. Abdul Nazeer.

Who are the legal eagles who argued?

The high-voltage hearing saw a battery of senior lawyers, including attorney general K.K. Venugopal, additional solicitor general Tushar Mehta, Arvind Datar, Kapil Sibal, Gopal Subaramaniam, Shyam Divan, Anand Grover, C.A. Sundaram and Rakesh Dwivedi, advancing arguments either in favour or against the inclusion of right to privacy as a fundamental right.

How the issue emerged?

The contentious issue had emerged over making the Aadhaar scheme mandatory.Initially, on 7 July, a three-judge bench had said that all issues arising out of Aadhaar should finally be decided by a larger bench and the chief justice of India would take a call on the need for setting up a constitution bench.

The matter was then mentioned before CJI Khehar who set up a five-judge constitution bench to hear the matter. However, the five-judge constitution bench on 18 July decided to set up a nine-judge bench to decide whether the right to privacy can be declared a fundamental right under the Constitution.

While reserving the verdict on 2 August, the bench had voiced concern over the possible misuse of personal information in the public domain and said that protection of the concept of privacy in the all-pervading technological era was a "losing battle".

During the arguments, the bench had on 19 July observed that the right to privacy cannot be an absolute right and the state may have some power to put reasonable restrictions.

The attorney general had also contended that right to privacy cannot fall in the bracket of fundamental rights as there were binding decisions of larger benches that it was only a common law right evolved through judicial decisions.

What petitioners say?

The petitioners had contended that the right to privacy was "inalienable" and "inherent" to the most important fundamental right which is the right to liberty.

They had said that right to liberty, which also included right to privacy, was a pre-existing "natural right" which the Constitution acknowledged and guaranteed to the citizens in case of infringement by the state.

The apex court, during the hearing, favoured overarching guidelines to protect private information in public domain and said there was a need to "maintain the core of privacy" as the notion of privacy was fast becoming irrelevant in an all- pervading technological era.

Centre's stand

Strongly backing the Aadhaar scheme, the Centre submitted that the right to life of millions of poor in the country through food, shelter and welfare measures was far more important than privacy concerns raised by the elite class.

The Centre had termed privacy as a "vague and amorphous" right which cannot be granted primacy to deprive poor people of their rights to life, food and shelter. The high-profile arguments also saw the apex court asking searching questions about the contours of right to privacy in the digital age when personal information was randomly shared with all types of government and private entities.

The bench had wanted to know about the tests which could be used to regulate and enforce privacy right when there could be "legitimate or illegitimate" use of data.

The ruling will, however, have a far-reaching impact on the function and currency of the Aadhaar card.

OneIndia News (with agency inputs)

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