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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
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  • 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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Another Deadline Missed, No Draft Scheme on the Cauvery Dispute Till Now

On the expiry of the six-week deadline, the Centre sought extension of time till the completion of the electoral process in Karnata for submission of the Scheme.

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The court said that even if the Centre has not framed the scheme, Karnataka, under the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal award, was obliged to make monthly releases to Tamil Nadu.
Supreme Court of India. Wikimedia commons

The Centre yet again failed to submit a draft Scheme on the Cauvery river water dispute before the Supreme Court on the ground that the Prime Minister and other ministers were campaigning in Karnataka, which Tamil Nadu flayed as “brazen partisanship”.

Seeking 10 more days to finalize the scheme, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal told Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud: “A draft scheme has been placed before the Cabinet. Because of Karnataka elections, the Prime Minister and all other Ministers are in Karnataka. Before that the Prime Minister was abroad (in China).”

It also sought response from the Centre on the steps taken by it since the pronouncing of the judgement for putting in place a scheme for implementing its order on the sharing of Cauvery water among Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry.
Parliament of India, wikimedia commons

The Centre’s submission was countered strongly by senior counsel Shekhar Naphade, appearing for Tamil Nadu, who said: “Sorry to say, the Central government is politicizing the issue. They are worried about their electoral fate in Karnataka. Election in Karnataka is on May 12 and somehow they don’t want to do it till then. We have enough of it. It is brazen partisanship of the Union of India. It is the end of co-operative federalism.”

The apex court in its February 16 judgement had directed the Centre to frame a Scheme within six months in accordance with the recommendation by the Cauvery River Water Tribunal for constitution of the Cauvery Management Board (CMB) and Cauvery Regulatory Authority (CRA), which Karnataka opposes strongly.

On the expiry of the six-week deadline, the Centre sought extension of time till the completion of the electoral process in Karnata for submission of the Scheme. Tamil Nadu filed a contempt petition against the Centre for failure to act within the deadline.

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During Thursday’s hearing, the court directed the Karnataka government to respond on how much of the four TMC of water it can release by month end. It also sought response from the Centre on the steps taken by it since the pronouncing of the judgement for putting in place a scheme for implementing its order on the sharing of Cauvery water among Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry.

In the course of the hearing, the court asked Karnataka to release 4 TMC of water by Monday.

The court said that even if the Centre has not framed the scheme, Karnataka, under the Cauvery Water Dispute Tribunal award, was obliged to make monthly releases to Tamil Nadu.

The court directed the next hearing of the matter on Tuesday. (IANS)