Is privacy a fundamental right? Supreme Court’s 9-judge bench to decide
The government is batting 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.Aadhaar Controversy Updated: Jul 19, 2017 13:14 IST
The Supreme Court is on Wednesday expected to hold a hearing to decide if privacy is a fundamental right, a question that has a bearing on the government’s push for Aadhaar, the 12-digit biometric identity number.
The court said on Tuesday that before taking up the petitions that challenged Aadhaar for violating privacy, the court needed to settle the constitutional status of right to privacy.
“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 had said.
It ordered a nine-judge bench to look into the matter and revisit the court’s rulings that said the right to privacy was not a fundamental right.
“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 government is batting 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.
More than 1.4 billion people or 95% of India’s population now have an Aadhaar number, which is to be obtained by all residents. Aadhaar is not a proof of citizenship.
The court referred the matter to the larger bench after the Centre cited the 1954 and 1962 judgments to argue 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.”