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Right to privacy: Supreme Court judgment mirrors people’s aspirations

The main ramification of the present judgment is that the Right To Privacy remains in Article 21. It empowers the hands of the citizen against the state. It also now provides citizens an effective legal remedy of challenging any state action, violating their privacy, under the writ jurisdiction.

analysis Updated: Aug 24, 2017 15:02 IST
Article 19,Privacy,Supreme Court
In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court of India has unanimously declared the right to privacy a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution(Reuters file photo)

August 24, 2017 is a red-letter day in the history of India. In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court of India has unanimously declared the right to privacy to be a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court has categorically held that the right to privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and as a part of the freedoms guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution. The judgment represents a quantum leap in the evolution of legal jurisprudence pertaining to privacy in India.

Traditionally, Indian society has its roots in the joint family system. Consequently, sharing of information has been an integral part of Indian culture. It is pertinent to note that as on date, India does not have a dedicated law on privacy. The Indian Information Technology Act, 2000 is not a law that safeguards privacy in the digital and mobile ecosystem.

The Aadhaar-based litigations in the Supreme Court gave rise to the issue as to whether the right to privacy was a fundamental right . Now, the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has delivered its historic judgment wherein it has unanimously declared that the Right to Privacy is a fundamental right, as an intrinsic element of Article 21 of the Constitution. Article 21 stipulates that no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty, except according to procedure established by law.

The said judgment is extremely important as it recognises, for the first time, the current significance of privacy, both personal and data privacy. The judgment of the Supreme Court mirrors the hopes and aspirations of the people, as without privacy, the very notion of modern life is under threat.

The path-breaking judgment states that the earlier decisions in the MP Sharma v. Satish Chandra and Kharak Singh v. State of UP cases have been overruled.

The main ramification of the present judgment is that the Right To Privacy remains in Article 21. Therefore, it is safe to assume that the courts from now on will read more in the right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The interpretation provided by the Supreme Court is ingenious, topical, relevant and will withstand the test of time.

This judgment empowers the hands of the citizen against the state. It also now provides citizens an effective legal remedy of challenging any state action, violating their privacy, under the writ jurisdiction. Any person can challenge such action, before the Supreme Court and High Court under Article 32 and 226 of the Constitution respectively.

India is at the cusp of a new digital revolution. The government has already launched the Digital India Programme with the objective of transforming India into a knowledge society and economy by 2018. An integral component of India’s march towards Digital India are issues pertaining to the protection of privacy. Given the fact that India does not have a dedicated law on privacy, the present judgment assumes more significance as it provides the status of sanctity to the right to privacy.

With a population of about 1.33 billion, India is expected to become the most populous nation in the world in the next seven years. The mobile revolution has transformed sections of our population into global authors, global transmitters and global broadcasters of data. In that context, it becomes extremely important that the privacy of data of Indians as also their personal privacy be adequately protected.

In that direction, the judgment of the Supreme Court comes in as shot in the arm. The judgment has huge long-term ramifications for the state as also other stakeholders in the digital ecosystem.

The Supreme Court upholds the sanctity of one of the most critical aspects of modern-day life. With the passage of time, the judgment will also have a direct and monumental impact on how the legal jurisprudence on privacy will develop in India.

Pavan Duggal is Supreme Court advocate and cyber law expert

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Aug 24, 2017 14:54 IST