Supreme Court's Right to Privacy verdict: Here’s what will change as privacy is declared a fundamental right
The historic verdict will now have a bearing on other key verdicts, including the ones on the validity of Aadhaar and the ruling on Section 377 which criminalises gay sex
August 24, 2017 / 01:08 PM IST
Laying to rest the much-heated debate on privacy in the wake of the debate around Aadhaar, a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court in a historic verdict pronounced the Right to Privacy as a Fundamental Right.
The ruling is based on an array of petitions that challenge the mandatory use of Aadhaar cards which assign a unique 12-digit ID to every citizen.
Privacy which has now been recognised as a fundamental right implies that it could be enforced by filing a civil law suit and the court could enforce it like any other writ.
The historic verdict, which will now define the relationship between Indian citizens and the State in the digital era, will now impact the outcome of several cases where the aspects of the Aadhaar have been challenged.
Right to Privacy as a Fundamental Right: What’s going to change?
Recognising privacy as a fundamental right has now created a change in the relationship between the State and the citizen.
Now, the State’s power to collect and handle data will change and possibly be diluted.
Article 21 of the Constitution, of which Right to Privacy is now part of, ensures the protection of life and personal liberty. It says no person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty, except according to the procedure established by law.
How Aadhaar Will Transform India In The Future
The Supreme Court's verdict is historic. However, the apex court has not said anything yet about Aadhaar and the related biometrics system that has caused a huge stir.
This is a big blow to the government, says veteran lawyer Prashant Bhushan.
Right now, it is expected that the Aadhaar case will now return to a five-judge bench, who will now study the collection and storage of data under the Aadhaar system and analyse whether and how it breaches the privacy of citizens.
In India, passwords, bank account, credit card, debit card and or other payment instrument details constitute as personal data. Reports of physical, physiological and mental health condition, a person’s sexual orientation and biometric information are also personal information.
The petitioners had previously said that enforcing the use of Aadhaar is an infringement of privacy. They also stressed that the Aadhaar database was originally presented as a purely voluntary programme that offered to provide every Indian with an identity card.
Apart from Aadhaar, the validity of the provision will also seek whether it will raise further questions as homosexual relationships between consenting adults will be seen under the purview of privacy as well.
The nine-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar had on August 2 reserved its verdict after hearing several arguments for six days, during which submissions were given in favour and against the inclusion of the right to privacy as a fundamental right.
The contentious issue had emerged when the apex court was dealing with a batch of petitions challenging the Centre's move to make Aadhaar mandatory for availing the benefits of various social welfare schemes.
However, despite the judgement, privacy is not defined in India. Many previous court judgments have said it is difficult to define. Therefore, all controversies like Section 377, Aadhaar, Section 66 among others. will have to be dealt on a case-to-case basis.