Privacy is a fundamental right, declares SC
In a unanimous verdict, a nine-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court declared that privacy is intrinsic to life and liberty and an inherent part of the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution.
The Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court held that:
- Privacy is a natural right that inheres in human beings because they are human. The state does not bestow natural rights on citizens. Natural rights like privacy exist equally in all individuals, irrespective of class, strata, gender or orientation.
- Privacy is the constitutional core of human dignity and privacy ensures the fulfillment of that dignity
- But privacy is not an absolute right. The government can introduce a law which “intrudes” into privacy for legitimate reasons. But a person can challenge this law in any of the constitutional courts for violation of his fundamental right to privacy
What the Centre had argued and the Court’s response:
- Centre’s argument: It was against the recognition of privacy as a fundamental right and assured the court that privacy would be protected through parliamentary statutes Court’s
- response: The court retorted that statutory laws can be amended by a simple parliamentary majority and the ruling party can at will, do away with any or all of the protections contained in the statutes. But fundamental rights are rights citizens may enjoy despite the governments they elect
- Centre’s argument: The Centre has also described the right to privacy as an elitist construct. Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal had argued that privacy was the concern of a few, while schemes like Aadhaar, which require citizens to part with their biometric details to the state, reduce corruption and benefit millions of poor Court’s
- response: The poor need no civil and political rights and are concerned only with economic well-being, this argument has been utilised through history for violation of human rights. It is privacy, as an intrinsic and core feature of life and personal liberty, which enables individuals to stand up against a programme of forced sterilisation. It is the right to question, scrutinise, dissent which enables an informed citizenry to scrutinise the actions of the government
SC overrules Emergency-era habeas corpus verdict:
- Over 40 years after the Supreme Court’s darkest hour, when it said citizens have no right to life and liberty during the Emergency period, a nine-judge Bench condemned the decision in the infamous ADM Jabalpur case, or better known as the habeas corpus case, as “seriously flawed.”
- The habeas corpus judgment in 1976 upheld the Congress government’s move to unlawfully detain citizens, including political rivals, during the Emergency years.