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Landmark Judgement: Right to Privacy Becomes Fundamental Right of India, Rules Supreme Court

Supreme Court today ruled, the right to privacy "is protected as an intrinsic part of Article 21 that protects life and liberty."

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Supreme Court rules Right to privacy a fundamental right
The Supreme Court of India. Wikimedia
  • Right to privacy was made a fundamental right for citizens of India
  • The decision came out unanimously by the bench of 9 judges including Chief Justice JS Khehar
  • Lawyer Prashant Bhushan noted ‘all fundamental rights come with reasonable restrictions’

New Delhi, August 24, 2017: In another landmark verdict by the Supreme Court, Right to privacy was made a fundamental right for citizens of India. Supreme Court today ruled: The right to privacy “is protected as an intrinsic part of Article 21 that protects life and liberty.”

A crowd of petitioners previously challenged the government’s Aadhaar biometric project, which has taped the iris scans and fingerprints of more than half a population.

Lawyer Prashant Bhushan noted ‘all fundamental rights come with reasonable restrictions.’ He further cautioned by saying that ‘whether Aadhaar can be seen as a reasonable restriction has yet to be decided’.

The decision came out unanimously by the bench of 9 judges including Chief Justice JS Khehar. Right to privacy is a fundamental right of every citizen, the judges said, overruling two previous Supreme Court judgments.

It is a watershed moment, remarked Sajan Poovayya, a petitioner in the case. “Whatever the state decides will be checked and tested on that basis. The powers of the state are curtailed to some extent,” he told NDTV.
Background: Government vs. Petitioners 
The government argued in the past that ‘right to privacy’ is not explicitly embodied in the Constitution as the founding fathers expelled the idea of inclusion of privacy as a fundamental liberty.
However, petitioners contended that in technologically dynamic society,  the identification of privacy as a fundamental freedom is an essential step against interference into personal space by the government and private players.

Adhar was criticised as a design which infringes privacy. India lacking the law on privacy aggravated the problem in the past.

Contentious argument: Why protect Adhaar? 

India is swiftly emerging as a digital market. Being a nation of billion mobile users, it needs laws on privacy and data protection as well.

Chances of fraudulence,  misrepresentation, ID theft are increasingly becoming the real concerns.

With the growing number of transactions done over the internet, information shared on such digital platforms become imperiled to misuse and theft.

Right to privacy bearing on Section 377

In 2013, the apex Court had supported Section 377 of the IPC, an iron fisted law that criminalizes the intimate relations “against the law of nature.” Today, the court’s decree on Right to Privacy also brought the protection of physical intimacies.

Explaining the concept of privacy, Justice DY Chandrachud, who was part of the nine-judge bench that pronounced the verdict, said in his judgment: “Privacy includes at its core the preservation of personal intimacies, the sanctity of family life, marriage, procreation, the home and sexual orientation… Privacy also connotes a right to be left alone.”


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Any Plan To Link Social Media And Aadhaar? SC Asks Government

The Supreme Court on Friday asked the government to explain if it is contemplating any move to link social media accounts with the Aadhaar Card

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Aadhaar, Identity, Social Media SC, Order
Logo of Aadhaar Card Reading application. Aadhar card is provided by India Government. Wikimedia Commons

The Supreme Court on Friday asked the government to explain if it is contemplating any move to link social media accounts with Aadhaar.

A bench headed by Justice Deepak Gupta asked the Centre to inform it of this by September 24, the next date fixed for the hearing, as it took up a plea by Facebook seeking transfer of various petitions from different high courts to the top court.

In Friday’s hearing, the bench said that it will not hear merits related to the issue but focus on the question of transfer of various petitions pending in different high courts.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was representing the Centre, said the government has no objection to transfer of the cases from high courts to the top court.

Facebook has said that the transfer of cases would serve the interests of justice by avoiding the possibility of conflicting decisions from the high courts.

It told the apex court that two petitions had been filed in the Madras High Court and one each in the Bombay and Madhya Pradesh High Courts, and sought a stay on all these proceedings.

The top court, in the last hearing, has not stayed proceedings in the high courts but restrained them from passing any final order.

Aadhaar, Identity, Social Media SC, Order
On August 20, the Supreme Court of India sought the response of the Centre and social media companies to respond on Facebooks plea to shift cases related to linking social media accounts with Aadhaar. Pixabay

All the pleas in the three high courts have sought a declaration that Aadhaar or any other government-authorised identity proof should be made mandatory to authenticate social media accounts.

“All the common cases seek similar relief and involve the similar question of law,” Facebook said in its plea, adding that any finding on the common questions would have far reaching implications for the general public and the parties.

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It said that it would suffer irreparable loss if the proceedings were not stayed at this stage, as conflicting decisions on the prayer seeking to link Aadhaar with social media platforms would adversely impact the its platform used throughout India.

The plea said that the common questions involve the interpretation of important Central statutes including the Information Technology Act, 2000 and the Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2019 which would directly impact the central and state governments.

The Madras High Court had expanded the scope of the case to consider the issue of online abuse and fake news being circulated through social media and sought to define the liabilities of intermediaries in cases of fake news and cyber abuse. (IANS)