supreme-court

Privacy: Heterogeneity, Plurality and Diversity

Blame the societal laws or our upbringing in general, Indians have never really been very inquisitive about their Right to Privacy. Considering this it is no surprise that the question of  privacy as our Fundamental Legal Right has been put to test only a few times in the history of courts. It was only recently that the Supreme Court of our country rendered a very ponderous and scholarly judgment on Right to Privacy in the case of J.K. Puttaswamy v. Union of India.

A brief history-

The only reason this part of the article has been titled as brief is because the history of Privacy in this country is actually really brief!

The courts have considered this pertinent question carefully only twice before in the cases of M. P. Sharma and Kharak Singh, respectively. In the cases discussed primarily, the Courts established a very vague idea of privacy as a right for citizens; the Puttaswamy judgment nurtured this idea into an integral requisite for the exercise of “personal liberty” in “just, fair and reasonable” terms as envisaged by the Constitution of India.

What led to the establishment of this Right-

Even the part of population not staying in touch with the news is aware that the bone of contention first arose when the government made Aadhar- Unique Identification mandatory for availing certain services, especially for access to social welfare programs. The most frightening issue about Aadhar was the database of 1.25 Billion people created after the information was collected from subscribers, its safety and possibility of misuse. Unique Identification Authority of India also received great criticism for its careless approach towards the stored data without set in system of checks and balances to secure the same.

Why this Judgment on Privacy affects you-

In the course of six years when the petition was ongoing a lot of talks involved the effect the judgment was going to have. Whether Privacy as a fundamental right was established or not was secondary, the judgment was going to change the entire scenario and status of privacy in this country. The landmark judgment consists of various observations by nine different judges which form the basis for future cases but the operative part of the judgment i.e. the observations that become binding legal examples for courts constitute mainly two principles: (i) privacy is an inalienable, natural right that is an intrinsic part of our Right to Life and that (ii) It is protected under the Constitution of our Country.

In two prior cases the Courts established a very vague idea of privacy as a right for citizens; the Puttaswamy judgment nurtured this idea into an integral requisite for the exercise of “personal liberty” in “just, fair and reasonable” terms as envisaged by the Constitution of India. The most practical and visible effect of the judgment can be seen in the various changes in the mandatory Aadhar scheme of the government and the various check posts that it has created to prevent the Government from exercising an absolute control over citizens’ information.