Read & Download Judgment: Supreme Court rules, ‘Right to Privacy’ is a fundamental right, as it is intrinsic to right to life

A nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the right to privacy as a fundamental right under the Constitution as Privacy is intrinsic to freedom of life and personal liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution, the nine-judge bench ruled. The top court overruled the previous judgments in the M P Sharma and Kharak Singh cases, which had found that the right to privacy was not protected by the Constitution. The bench observed that privacy is intrinsic to freedom of life and personal liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Here’s The Full Judgment of Supreme Court on Right to Privacy:

WHAT PETITIONERS SAY
PRECEDENTS
* And eight-judge bench ruled in the MP Sharma case (1954) there was no right to privacy under a specific Article, but it did not extinguish a general fundamental right to privacy.
* A six-judge bench in Kharak Singh case (1962) that right to privacy is not fundamental, no longer good law.
* In an unbroken chain of judgments, starting from Gobind vs State of Madhya Pradesh and leading up to National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) vs Union of India (on the rights of transgender persons), the Supreme Court has recognised the fundamental right to privacy.
* Privacy is associated with and is the bulwark of other rights. It is located in the golden trinity of Articles 14,19, and 21 (right to liberty and equality).
* There can be no dignity without privacy, and dignity is part of the Preamble, part of the basic structure of the Constitution.

WHAT RESPONDENTS SAY
* Cite Kharak Singh and MP Sharma to argue right to privacy is not fundamental.
* Privacy is a vague concept, and vague concepts cannot be made fundamental rights.
* Framers of Constitution debated but discarded privacy as fundamental right.
* Right to life of others, including right to food, is more important than right to privacy.
* Internationally, in most jurisdictions, right to privacy has not been recognized explicitly.

THE PETITIONERS
Former Karnataka HC judge, KS Puttaswamy, now 91, filed the PIL in 2012 challenging the Aadhaar scheme, saying it violates fundamental rights to privacy and equality. SC has linked all the 20+ Aadhaar cases to this main case. Petitioners include activists Bezwada Wilson, Aruna Roy and Nikhil Dey. For Puttaswamy, this was reportedly the first time he felt need to petition the courts in any matter.

THE BENCH
The high profile bench that decided the question of privacy. Here are the judges:
1. JS Khehar
2. J Chlameswar
3. SA Bobde
4. RK Agarwal
5. RF Nariman
6. AM Sapre
7. DY Chandrachud
8. SK Kaul
9. S Abdul Nazeer

The bench, headed by Chief Justice of India J S Khehar, comprises 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. The bench had reserved its verdict on the matter on August 2, after a marathon hearing spread over six days. The matter was referred to a constitution bench by a five-judge bench hearing a clutch of petitions challenging the Aadhaar Act.

The question of whether the right to privacy is a fundamental right guaranteed under the Constitution was first raised in the apex court before a three-judge bench. A batch of petitioners had challenged the Centre’s move to make Aadhaar mandatory to benefit from social and welfare schemes. The three-judge bench had referred the case to a larger bench on July 7, which was set up by the CJI. The five-judge Constitution bench had on July 18 decided to refer the matter to a nine-judge bench.

 Speaking to reporters, senior counsel Prashant Bhushan said, “The judgment doesn’t say anything about the right of citizens to share biometric details for Aadhaar. The nine-judge held that it is a fundamental right. Any law passed cannot infringe upon the reasonable restrictions on your right to privacy. If the government says Aadhaar will be required for travel and purchases then in my view these are unreasonable restrictions… it is a setback to the government as they said right to privacy is not a ‘wholly qualified’ right.”

The top court’s previous decisions in the M P Sharma and Kharak Singh case “stand overruled”. The two judgments had found that right to privacy was not protected by the Constitution.

This judgement is a blow to Aadhaar as the Centre now has to convince SC that forcing citizens to give a sample of their fingerprints and their iris scan does not violate privacy.

The SC bench’s judgment will touch the lives of 134 crore Indians. It was not meant to decide on the fate of Aadhaar, just on whether privacy of an individual was a part of their inviolable fundamental rights. What this means is a five-judge bench of the SC will test the validity of Aadhaar on the touchstone of privacy as a fundamental right.

Source: Inputs from IE, TOI and SC

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