A nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court today unanimously declared privacy as a fundamental right under the Indian Constitution. The apex court has overruled the judgments previously made in the Karak Singh and M P Sharma cases, which found the right to privacy as not being protected under the Constitution of India.
Further upholding its decision regarding the right to privacy, the bench observed that privacy is intrinsic to the freedom of life and personal liberty, protected under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
Headed by the Chief Justice of India J S Khehar, the bench comprised of Justices R K Agarwal, J Chelameswar, R F Nariman, S A Bobde, A M Sapre, S Abdul Nazeer, S K Kaul and D Y Chandrachud. This bench of judges had reserved the verdict on the matter on August 2, after a marathon hearing that went on for six days. As per reports, this matter was referred to a constitution bench by a 5-judge-bench while hearing petitions challenging the Aadhar Act.
This question on the constitutional status of privacy as a fundamental right of an Indian citizen had perplexed the Indian lawmakers since long. This particular case surfaced in numerous petitions led by retired High Court judge K Puttaswamy that challenged way back in 2012 the UPA government’s decision to introduce personal Aadhar Ids to Indian citizens based on biometric data. The petitioners included the first Chairperson of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and Magsaysay awardee Shanta Sinha and feminist researcher Kalyani Sen Menon among others.
This petition was transferred to a 5-judge bench on August 11, 2015, which later referred the matter to a constitutional bench.
Meanwhile, New Delhi, through attorney general K K Venugopal, had argued against privacy being an inviolable fundamental right. According to Venugopal:
“Privacy, even if assumed to be a fundamental right, consists of a large number of sub-species… It will be constitutionally impermissible to declare each and every instance of privacy a fundamental right. Privacy has varied connotations when examined from different aspects of liberties. If the SC wants to declare it a fundamental right, then it probably has to determine separately the various aspects of privacy and the extent of violation that could trigger a constitutional remedy.”
Against Venugopal’s argument, the petitioners had contended that the right to privacy was absolutely “inalienable” and “inherent” to the most important fundamental right exercised by an Indian national, that is, the right to liberty – a pre-existing “natural right”.
— ANI (@ANI) August 24, 2017
Such cross wires of arguments presented many difficulties to the bench in determining the constitutional status of privacy, but the nine-judge bench eventually came out with the verdict in favor of the petitioners today morning.