Right to Privacy is a fundamental right rules Supreme Court
The Supreme Court on Thursday held that Right to Privacy is a fundamental right. The verdict was delivered by a nine judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court headed by the Chief Justice of India, J S Khehar. The Bench in a unanimous decision held that right to privacy is a fundamental right.
The Chief Justice of India J S Khehar who headed the nine judge Constitution Bench said in his order that privacy is protected under Article 21 and para 3.
"All judgments that proceeded on the basis that privacy is a Fundamental Right are correct. Privacy is a guaranteed Fundamental Right," the Bench held.
The 9 judge Bench overruled a 8 judge Bench judgment and a 6 judge Bench judgment in Kharak Singh. Both had said privacy not a fundamental right. The court said that right to privacy is intrinsic to right to life.
The Bench also held that right to privacy is also intrinsic to the entire fundamental right chapter of Constitution.
The court held that the 8 judge Bench judgment of 1954 in the M P Sharma case ruling that privacy is not a fundamental right" is not correct law. The unanimous order said privacy is a fundamental right and part of Article 21 which guarantees life and liberty of an individual. "Right to Privacy is an integral part of Right to Life and Personal Liberty guaranteed in Article 21 of the Constitution," the Bench also observed.
The verdict of the Supreme Court will have an impact on several other cases.
- Aadhaar: Government's decision to introduce the biometric data-enabled Aadhaar ID for citizens.
- Section 377: Homosexuality, oral sex are a criminal offence.
- Section 66A of the IT Act Verdict: State can take action against an individual for sharing his thoughts on a social platform.
- DNA Profiling Bill, 2017: Bodily right such as the DNA of an individual can be profiled without his consent.
The government had argued that the Constitution does not guarantee individual privacy as an inalienable fundamental right. The matter came during a hearing on the Aadhaar case where the petitioners alleged that Right to Privacy is a Fundamental Right as enshrined in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
The government pointed out that Right to Privacy is not explicitly set out in the Constitution. The government further contended that Aadhaar is essential for all services including tax returns, opening bank accounts and securing loans, pensions and cash transfers for those entitled to welfare schemes. It has rejected suggestions that the Aadhaar programme possesses a threat to civil liberties.
Senior advocate, Gopal Subramanium while arguing for the petitioners contended that liberty existed even before the Constitution was drafted and it includes privacy. There cannot be a question of diminution but expansion of a right. Right to liberty includes freedom from encroachment on his or her privacy, he also said.