In a unanimous verdict, a nine-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday declared that privacy is intrinsic to life and liberty and an inherent part of the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution.
The court held that privacy is a natural right that inheres in human beings because they are human. The state does not bestow natural rights on citizens. Natural rights like privacy exist equally in all individuals, irrespective of class, strata, gender or orientation.
‘Core of human dignity’
“Privacy is the constitutional core of human dignity. Privacy ensures the fulfilment of dignity,” Justice D.Y. Chandrachud wrote.
The Centre had argued against the recognition of privacy as a fundamental right. It had assured the court that privacy would be protected through parliamentary statutes.
But the court retorted that statutory laws “can be made and also unmade by a simple parliamentary majority.”
“The ruling party can, at will, do away with any or all of the protections contained in the statutes. Fundamental rights are rights citizens may enjoy despite the governments they elect,” Justice Rohinton F. Nariman explained in his separate judgment.
The court chided the Centre for describing right to privacy as an “elitist construct.” Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal had argued that privacy was the concern of a few, while schemes like Aadhaar, which require citizens to part with their biometric details to the state, reduce corruption and benefit millions of poor.
“The refrain that the poor need no civil and political rights and are concerned only with economic well-being has been utilised through history to wreak the most egregious violations of human rights. It is privacy, as an intrinsic and core feature of life and personal liberty, which enables individuals to stand up against a programme of forced sterilisation. It is the right to question, scrutinise, dissent which enables an informed citizenry to scrutinise the actions of government,” Justice Chandrachud said, addressing Mr. Venugopal’s arguments.
However, the court held that privacy is not an absolute right. The government can introduce a law which “intrudes” into privacy for public and legitimate state reasons. But a person can challenge this law in any of the constitutional courts of the land — the Supreme Court or the State High Courts — for violation of his fundamental right to privacy. (The Hindu)