Right to Privacy

What is Right to Privacy?
Right to Privacy refers to respecting and ensuring the privacy of the individual. It is not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution. The nine-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in a landmark unanimous decision has declared right to privacy a fundamental right under the constitution overruling SC’s past 2 judgements in MP Sharma case (1954) and Kharak Singh case (1961) .
SC judgement:
  • The apex court ruled that right to privacy is an intrinsic part of Right to Life and Personal Liberty under Article 21 and entire Part III of the Constitution.
  • The apex court also had voiced concern over the possible misuse of personal information in the public domain.
  • The Supreme Court of India’s judgment gains international significance as privacy enjoys a robust legal framework internationally, though India had earlier remained circumspect.
  • The judgment finally reconcile Indian laws with the spirit of Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), 1966, which legally protects persons against the arbitrary interference with one’s privacy, honour and reputation, family, home and correspondence.
  1. This will ensure the dignity of the individual as mentioned in our Preamble.
  2. It will impose restrictions on the government when it tries encroach our privacy.
  3. It will also give impetus to the Right to personal liberty, under Article 21 of the Constitution.
  1. It can hinder the implementation and performance of welfare schemes -like Aadhar and Direct Benefits Transfer-which requires personal data of citizens. These schemes are well intended and helps in identification of marginalised sections and effective implementation by preventing leakages.
  2. Right to Privacy will also restrict police and intelligence agencies to collect private information about accused, dead persons etc. as mentioned in DNA Profiling bill.
Recent Developments like Neera Radia case, Ratan Tata petition against Phone tapping, Aadhar Initiative etc. it has come under debate.
Aadhar – Privacy issue
Aadhar initiative requires collection of personal data from residents of India, and this has resulted in controversy regarding its potential to be missed. This is so because:
  1. It requires collection of biometric details like iris scanning and finger prints  which are essentially crucial details and could be misused.
  2. Cyber space is a vulnerable space and is prone to threat.
  3. Cyber security architecture is not very strong in India.
  4. Aadhar lacks statutory back up and is running on an executive order, which has also raised questions.
However, Aadhar in itself is a well-intentioned program so as to plug leakages and ensure financial inclusion. This will lead to better targeting of subsidies and hence reduce the burden of exchequer. But the costs should not outweigh the benefits.
Towards this end, government must:
  1. Strengthen cyber security system
  2. Assure by means of legislation that private details would be maintained private
  3. Judicial backing against violation of right to privacy.
This is the need of the hour as stalling of Aadhar doesn’t fare well for social security programs.
What was Government’s view of Right to Privacy?
  • Government told the SC that right to privacy is a fundamental right but it is a “wholly qualified right”
  • Government stand means ‘right to privacy’ could be subject to reasonable restrictions
Related Questions:
  • Should Right to Privacy be made a Fundamental Right under our constitution? Critically comment. (200 Words)
  • Is Right to Privacy a Fundamental Right in India? In the light of concerns raised against government’s initiatives to collect personal data from citizens, critically comment. (200 Words)



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