This Case Comment on Justice K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India; is written by Tanisha Bamboria. She is pursuing Law from Mohan Lal Sukhadia University, Udaipur; and is Content Writer & Legal Researcher at Legal Thirst. This case defines the Right to Privacy guaranteed under Right to Life, under Article 21 of the Constitution.
Title of the Case: Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) V. Union of India & Ors, 2017
Citation: Writ Petition (Civil) No. 494 of 2012, (2017) 10 SCC 1
Court: Supreme Court of India
Sanjay kishan kaul, Dhananjay Y. Chandrachud, R.K Agrawal, J.S Khehar, S.A Bobde, S.A Nazeer, J. Chelameswar, A.M Sapre JJ.
Petitioner: Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retired)
Respondent: Union of India and others.
On 24 August, a nine judge bench of Supreme Court came out with the historic judgement in favour of common man’s fundamental right to privacy against state intrusions. The right to privacy is widely considered as one of the basic fundamental right and explicitly stated under Article 12 of the 1948, Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In this case the right to privacy under Article 21 (Right to life and personal liberty) of our Indian constitution was again brought to the fore, by issuance of Adhar Cards which aims to build a database of personal identity and biometric information covering every Indian citizen.
Facts of the Case:
In 2012, Justice K.S. Puttaswamy filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court; challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhar Scheme launched by the Government of India He contended that, right to privacy is a fundamental right under Article 21; and Adhar procedure violating the right established in the regard of all previous judgment.
- Whether or not Right to Privacy, a part of Fundamental Right under Constitution of India?
- Whether or not the decision made by the court that there is no such fundamental right of right to privacy; in the cases like M.P. Sharma VS Satish Chandra and Kharak Singh V. State of U.P. etc. had the correct constitutional positions?
- The petitioner put forth that the right to privacy is an intrinsic part of the Article 21 of the constitution and it is an independent right of every citizen.
- He argued that constitution would have to be read in the line with the preamble, while keeping in mind that right to privacy is a natural right and an international human right.
- He put forward the correctness of the M.P. Sharma VS Satish Chandra and Kharak Singh VS State of U.P on the ground that it violates the constitution.
- Attorney General of India on behalf of government argued that the right to privacy has not been expressly provided in the constitution and in the cases of M.P. Sharma and kharak Singh, Constitution did not specifically protect the right.
- They argued that the makers of the Constitution did not intend to make right to privacy as a fundamental right.
The nine-judge bench unanimously recognized that the constitution guarantees the right to privacy as a fundamental right under right to life and personal liberty (Article 21) of the Indian constitution.
The right to privacy was reinforced by the concurring opinions of the judges who recognized this right as fundamental right which includes autonomy over personal decisions (e.g. consumption of beef); bodily integrity (e.g. reproductive rights), protection of personal information (e.g. privacy of health records).
Some of the Judges Opinions are Illustrated Below:
J. Chandrachud (on behalf of himself, C.J. Kehar, J. Agrawal and J. Nazeer)
This opinion stated that privacy was not surrendered entirely when an individual is in the public sphere. Further, it found that the right to privacy included the negative right against State interference; as in the case of criminalization of homosexuality; as well as the positive right to be protected by the State. On this basis, the Judges held that there was a need to introduce a data protection regime in India.
In his opinion, the Judge said that the right to privacy implied a right to refuse medical treatment; a right against forced feeding, the right to consume beef and the right to display symbols of religion in one’s personal appearance etc.
The Judge observed that consent was essential for distribution of inherently personal data such as health records.
In this concurring opinion, the Judge classified the facets of privacy into non-interference with the individual body, protection of personal information and autonomy over personal choices.
The Judge said that, in addition to its existence as an independent right; the right to privacy included an individual’s rights to freedom of expression and movement and was essential to satisfy the constitutional aims of liberty and fraternity which ensured the dignity of the individual.
The Judge discussed the right to privacy with respect to protection of informational privacy and the right to preserve personal reputation. He said that the law must provide for data protection and regulate national security exceptions that allow for interception of data by the State.
Triple Test by Apex Court
The Supreme Court held that right to privacy is not an absolute right and any intrusion by state or non-state must satisfy following triple test:
- Legitimate aim; need and to define
- Proportionality which ensures a rational nexus between the object and the means adopted.
- Legality; which postulates the existence of law
It also overruled the decisions given in M.P. Sharma v. Satish Chandra and Kharak Singh case that, Right to Privacy is not part of fundamental right.
The Supreme Court has again protected the right of an individual against the assault in form of invasion of privacy. The judgement also paved the way for landmark judgements like of homosexuality in Navtej Singh Johar VS Union of India (2018) and ending the provisions of crime of adultery in the Joseph shine VS union of India case (2018).
Case significance is meant by how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.
The decision establishes a binding or persuasive precedent within its jurisdiction.
The historic decision is by Nine-Judge bench of the Supreme Court. Therefore, it establishes a binding precedent on all Courts, unless overruled by a larger bench. The Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) case has wider significance because; when the world’s largest democracy provides the right to privacy; considering this right as heart of Constitutional Right of Right to Life under Article 21. This decision will surely provide assistance and inspiration to privacy activists around the world.
The decision was cited in:
- Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India
- Horlicks Limited v. Heinz India Private Limited
- Shirin R.K. v. State of Kerala
- Kumar v. Central Bureau of Investigation
- In Re: Banners Placed on Roadside in the City of Lucknow v. State of Uttar Pradesh
- Kush Kalra v. Union of India
- Rout v. State of Odisha
- Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association v. State of Maharashtra
Official Case Documents:
- Livelaw, Right to Privacy- Read the Complete Written Submissions of All Lawyers in the Landmark Hearing,(Aug. 3, 2017)
Reports, Analysis, and News Articles:
- Gautam Bhatia, The Supreme Court’s Right to Privacy Judgment, Indconlawphil (Aug. 24, 2017)
- Madhavi Goradia Divan, Privacy: Many-Splendoured Right Which Needed to be at the Forefront of Civil Liberties, Hindustan Times (Aug. 27, 2017)
- Supreme Court recognises a constitutional right to privacy in a landmark judgment
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