Supreme Court gifts 1.3 billion Indians right to privacy, dignity, sexual freedom
New Delhi, August 25: Cheers Indians! The Supreme Court has gifted you the best ever gift you could have possibly imagined to have received in the history of 70 years of India's existence as a free and a democratic country.
What a judgement it was when the apex court's nine-judge Constitutional bench in unison declared that "right to privacy is an intrinsic part of right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 and entire part III of the Constitution".
The judgement has come at a time when doubts have creeped into our socio-political domain about our rights, safety and freedom as individuals as cases relating to beef ban and mob lynching created fissures in the secular fabric of the country.
In the past too, India had experienced tremors, especially during the dark 21-month long Emergency in 1975. We managed to duck all odds all these years and continued with our tradition of surviving as a united nation.
But doubt always remained about our rights as individual citizens as time and again the state, irrespective of which political party was in power at the Centre, tried to police and dictate our personal choices by imposing draconian laws.
While declaring that the right to privacy is a fundamental right, the Supreme Court clearly recognised the rights of each and every individual of the nation to eat, love, pray and work freely.
The judgement holds special important for the LGBTQQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer) community as its members have been living a life of fear, intimidation and discrimination imposed by the draconian law (read Section 377) which has tactical support from the moral brigade of society.
The apex court said right to privacy is valid even in the context of Section 377 --- a law that criminalises what was once seen as unnatural sex. Sexual orientation, the court said, is an "essential component of identity" and the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population are "real rights founded on sound constitutional doctrine".
Apar Gupta, a practising lawyer who had appeared on behalf of the petitioners in the Right to Privacy case, in a column for The Indian Express wrote, "The constitutional right to privacy is no longer in any dispute and stands on firm ground. Its breadth is established over the entire chapter of fundamental rights, which include equality, free expression, right to life, religion."
"This also means the Aadhaar cases will now proceed for arguments on their merits which were gridlocked due to this pending decision. But this case goes far beyond Aadhaar and holds the promise of renewing the vitality of the complete spectrum of civil liberties. For instance, the judgement quite clearly establishes the link between privacy, dignity and sexual autonomy. In doing this, it undercuts the basis of another dark stain on the history of the court when three years ago in the Suresh Koushal v. Naz Foundation case, the court refused to strike down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. It is now only matter of time when the case will be formally overruled," Gupta added.
Echoing similar views expressed by Gupta, Indira Jaising, former additional solicitor general and senior advocate of the Supreme Court, said the LGBT community will no longer be criminalised.
Jaising in her column for The Indian Express wrote, "The judgment has some very important unintended benefits, it clearly holds that sexual orientation is part of the right to privacy and hence section 377 can no longer be a valid law. The Naz Foundation judgment of the Delhi High Court has been reinstated,the LGBT community will no longer be criminalised."
In a column published by NDTV, journalist and fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, Mihir Swarup Sharma, wrote that the judgment on right to privacy will change our lives forever.
Citing the best parts about the unanimous judgement (9-0), which is a momentous occasion for the country, Sharma wrote, "We are a country of individuals, not of groups. Individual rights and individual freedoms are what our constitution is founded on; this is India, and not China. Civil and political rights are an essential part of "Vikas" (development), and not distinct from them."
"This attitude is reflected throughout the various opinions in the judgment; it's why this is a step forward for the empowerment of regular people, and a much-needed reminder that India is a democracy built on the principles of individualism and liberalism," he added.
Tomorrow, we may or may not emerge as a "superpower", but recognising each and every individual as a 'superman or superwoman', the court truly upheld the power of a free, secular and democratic country where all our equals.
And when a person works in a free environment without any fear, nobody can stop him/her from expressing his/her true potential, a clear indication of social, political and economic growth of any nation in the world.