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Is privacy a fundamental right? Supreme Court refers matter to 9-judge bench

The government is pushing for Aadhaar but critics say it violates privacy, is vulnerable to data breaches and helps government spy on people.

india Updated: Jul 19, 2017 08:10 IST
Bhadra Sinha
Bhadra Sinha
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Aadhaar,PAN card,Supreme Court
An Aadhaar centre at the Dehradun general post office.(HT file)

Is the right to privacy a fundamental right?

The question, which forms the basis of petitions that challenge Aadhaar for violating privacy, will be answered by a nine-judge constitution bench.

The Supreme Court in Tuesday said the constitution bench would revisit its rulings that said the right to privacy was not a fundamental right and then hear petitions against the 12-digit biometric identity number.

“During the course of hearing today it has become essential for us to determine whether right to privacy is a fundamental right under the Constitution,” a five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India JS Khehar said.

The nine-judge bench is expected to take up and conclude its hearing on Wednesday itself.

“The determination of this question would essentially entail whether the decision recorded by an eight-judge bench in 1954 and also by a six-judge bench in 1962 that there is no such fundamental right is the correct expression of constitutional provisions,” the court said.

The court decided to refer the matter to a larger bench after the Centre cited the two judgments to argue that the right to privacy was not a fundamental right.

“Our founding fathers have encompassed all rights. But consciously this is omitted,” attorney general KK Venugopal said.

But justice J Chelameswar said it was illogical to argue that the Constitution didn’t mention the right to privacy while common law identified it.

“Textually it is correct today that there is no right to privacy in the Constitution. But even freedom of press is not expressly stated. This court has interpreted it,” the judge said, adding the earlier verdicts should be looked at again.

“One can’t overlook the constant view held by smaller benches in their later judgments holding right to privacy is a fundamental right.”

The government is pushing for Aadhaar, saying it is necessary to plug leakages in subsidy schemes and to ensure benefits reach those targeted. But critics say the move violates privacy, is vulnerable to data breaches and helps government spy on people.

First Published: Jul 18, 2017 14:02 IST