[Solved] Examine the scope of Fundamental Rights in the light of the latest judgement of the Supreme Court on Right to Privacy ( UPSC GS-2 Mains 2017)
The Supreme court recently ruled that the right to privacy was “an intrinsic part of Article 21 that protects life and liberty”.The verdict overturns two previous rulings by the top court which said that privacy was not a fundamental right.
• The judgement reaffirmed the principle of the individual as the raison d’etre of the state. In the process, it fulfilled its constitutional role as a check upon legislative and executive power in comprehensive
• The privacy judgement thus reaffirms the strength of the Constitutional protections given to fundamental rights.
• The judgement also sketches out the evolution of the concepts of human dignity and the right to life,
both guaranteed by the Constitution. When a citizen cannot draw a boundary between the state and his personal life, dignity is manifestly impossible.
• The right to be let alone is a part of the right to enjoy life. The right to enjoy life is, in its turn, a part of the fundamental right to life of the individual. This means privacy will have no definition. It’s scope and definition will be decided on a case to case basis. The restrictions on the privacy will depend uponwhich article it emanates from
• If the restraint on privacy is over fundamental personal choices that an individual is to make, State
action can be restrained under Article 21 read with Article 14 if it is arbitrary and unreasonable.
Reading the right to privacy into each and every one of the fundamental rights in the Indian Constitution has meant that the scope and depth of these rights have been expanded.The Supreme Court also criticized
a previous ruling by the top court that reinstituted a law criminalizing homosexuality, saying that discrimination against an individual on the basis of sexual orientation is deeply offensive to the dignity and self-worth of the individual.
• The right to privacy and the protection of sexual orientation lies at the core of the fundamental rights guaranteed by Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution.
• Section 66a of the IT act: with to Right to Privacy verdict, an individual breaching privacy by on social networking sites could be held accountable.
• The ruling has implications for the government’s vast biometric ID scheme, covering access to benefits, bank accounts and payment of taxes.
• It will have a bearing on the challenge to the validity of the Aadhaar scheme on the grounds of its being violative of the right to privacy.
• Supreme Court did not hold that the right to privacy is absolute. It cannot, for example, be used by
individuals to exempt themselves from zoning regulations. The state is within its rights to fetter privacy in some circumstances but the onus would be on it to justify itself.
The Supreme Court’s landmark verdict making individual privacy a fundamental right will impact daily lives in ways that range from eating habits to online behaviour, and from sexual preferences to welfare scheme benefits Aadhaar: A challenge was put against the validity of Aadhaar Act; however Supreme Court has dismissed apprehension that the Aadhaar scheme violates citizens’ Right to Privacy, saying minimal data was collected in the enrolment process. It said collection of demographic and biometric data under the Aadhaar Act does not violate the fundamental right of privacy as the information sought is limited and only for the purpose of identification.
- Consent/Choice: Nobody could be told by the State as to what they should eat or how they should dress or whom they should be associated with either in their personal, social or political life.
- Euthanasia: Indian law disallows medically assisted suicide. But the Bench said the right to privacy includes the right to refuse food or even medicine.
- Health records: These are important, private documents, whose publication can lead to social embarrassment and worse.
- Information control: It empowers the individual to use privacy as a shield to retain personal control over information pertaining to the person.
- Laws: Court said infusing a right with a constitutional element gives it a sense of immunity from popular opinion and, as its reflection, from legislative annulment, which a common law right would not have.
- Sexuality and Privacy: Section 377, criminalises consensual homosexual activity between two consenting adults has been invalidated.
- Reproductive rights: The Supreme Court counts reproductive rights as inherent to the right to life and liberty. Like privacy, this right is not mentioned in the text of the Constitution, but is a penumbral right — one derived from rights mentioned in the text.
- Unauthorised taps: Though guidelines on phone taps are already in place, the privacy ruling has further reinforced protections against unauthorised surveillance.
- Zero tolerance: By making privacy a fundamental right by a 9-0 verdict in Puttaswamy case, SC has immunised it against attacks by simple legislative majorities.
- The scope of fundamental rights are becoming more wider in these days. People becoming of more aware about their rights and showing more assertiveness in exercising those rights.
- In the light of recent supreme court Judgement in privacy case, where 9 judge constitutional bench unanimously agreed to right to privacy as fundamental right under right to life and personal liberty (Article-21).
- The same right in earlier case like, M.P.Sharma and Kharak sing cases not considered as fundamental right. As the country is developing people are just don’t want lead their life mechanically, their preferences are changing, aspirations are growing, they want to exercise their rights through all their available means. Individual liberty gained much more importance.
- Earlier private information like postal address considered as privacy but now thumb impression, iris details, health information, personal choices, bodily information, etc becomes part of life without which we cannot lead our life comfortably.
- As the technology and business promotion activities growing personal data gaining more salience, so people don’t want to share their confidential information with any other which include their personal information.
- Right to life is now no more limited to the wider interpretation given in Maneka Gandhi case , it reached to a micro level where each and every single entity of life becoming an important component to lead life according to the whims and fancies of individuals with in the frame work of reasonable restrictions.
- A nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court of India in the case of K.S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India gave a historic judgment favoring the individual privacy a fundamental right that is going to impact the daily lives. But the court clarified that like other rights prescribed under Part III of the Constitution of India, the right to privacy is not an “absolute right” Recent issues and impacts after the verdict
- The Aadhaar scheme has been launched without any backing of the law and therefore there is no guarantee that data will not be used for any other purpose. For example by law enforcement agencies for snooping on citizens etc. Therefore, breach of the right to privacy has become a central issue. But the Supreme Court stated the Aadhaar Act is not violating the fundamental right of privacy.
- The right to refuse food and medicine are also included in the right to privacy.
- The publication of important, private documents regarding health-related problems, that can lead to social discomfort and worse are also under the Right to Privacy.
- The Sexuality and Privacy, reproductive rights are safeguarded under the verdict, and at the same time any unauthorized phone call tapping has been declared violative to fundamental rights.
The concern about the privacy issue is a bone of contention. At the same time, it is also essential to deliver quality governance in the country. Only the introduction of new technology and innovation through the Digital India initiative can provide the massive changes that are required in the country. However, such a project must be accompanied by proper data protection and privacy law. Citizens of the country should feel confident in their privacy while using such facilities. The verdict of the Supreme court regarding this issue will definitely alleviate some of the issues faced by the common man.
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