The Supreme Court of India’s nine-judge Constitution Bench headed by J.S. Khehar, Chief Justice of India, has declared ‘right to privacy’ as a fundamental right under the Constitution of India.
Besides CJI J.S. Khehar, the bench comprised of justices S.A. Bobde, Jasti Chelameswar, S. Abdul Nazeer, R.K. Agarwal, D.Y. Chandrachud, Rohinton Nariman, A.M. Sapre, and S.K. Kaul.
With this decision, the Supreme Court has overruled its previous six-judge, and eight-judge Bench judgments of M.P. Kharak Singh and M.P. Sharma delivered in the year 1961 and 1954, respectively. Both the decisions made by Supreme Court in the year 1954 and 1961 had refused the right to privacy to be protected under the country’s Constitution.
The Supreme Court’s ruling on the right to privacy was to deal with the petitions challenging the government’s plans to make Aadhaar obligatory to avail the benefits of various social welfare schemes. However Aadhaar is voluntary, but the government’s move to make it compulsory for availing social welfare schemes has raised some serious concerns. The decision of Supreme Court that pronounced right to privacy protected under the Constitution is expected to have a direct effect on the Centre’s plans for Aadhaar.
What is Aadhaar?
Aadhaar is a 12-digit random number issued by the Indian government to its citizens, and it requires the biometric and demographic information of the citizens.
The Supreme Court has ruled that ‘right to privacy’ is an essential part of most precious fundamental rights, Right to Life & Personal Liberty, under Article 21 of the Constitution and entire Part III of the Constitution. By declaring the right to privacy as a fundamental right, the apex court overruled its earlier two judgements that say that right to privacy is not protected under the Constitution.
The Supreme Court of India had also voiced concern over the probable misuse of personal information in the public domain.
The apex court’s judgment on ‘right to privacy’ gains international significance as privacy enjoys a strong legal framework internationally. The ‘right to privacy’ judgment finally unify Indian laws with the spirit of Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights (ICCPR), 1966, and Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), which legally protects individuals against the unacquainted interference with one’s privacy, family, correspondence, honour & reputation, and home.