The Indian supreme court has given some extra ordinary judgments recently. On Thursday, 24th August, 2017 the highest court of India gave this landmark judgment that “Right to privacy is a fundamental right and it is intrinsic to right to life”. It was an unanimous judgement of the 9 judge constitutional bench. This judgement overruled two earlier judgments of the supreme court itself which said Right to privacy is not a fundamental right.
Now what led to this judgement. The present government of India is involving Aadhar ( a unique identity number to every person) in everything. They want Aadhar card to be linked with PAN card, phone number, bank account number etc. Government claims they want to use this in dispensing social welfare means and it will help in plugging holes. But will it not be risky to put a person’s all information at one source? The state may be looking at one source through which it will be able to retrieve all info for a person. But it is dangerous if the info gets in a wrong hand. In our country where the system is so slippery where bribery is the rule rather than exception one need to be cautious and preventive. This verdict should give that preventive check. The government is already talking about a data protection bill and the law minister said it should be ready in 3 – 4 months. It can have reasonable restrictions as fundamental rights but those reasonable restrictions now has to pass the test of law or right to privacy itself.
One of the judge justice Chandrachud said right to privacy also means right to be left alone. This is profound.
The verdict has far reaching implications as it touches various spheres of an Individual’s life. The supreme court also mentioned few cases which will be impacted by this judgment:
Section 377 a law passed in the British era (1860) is still going in the constitution of India while the world has moved ahead. It was an angelic insertion which curtails the choice of consenting individuals and must go away. The state should have nothing to do with what consenting adults do in their bedroom. Criminalizing ones sexual orientation is definitely against the right to privacy, dignity and liberty, provided by the constitution of India. The court said the earlier judgement was flawed. Curative petitions are already pending in this regard and to be heard by a 5 judge bench of the supreme court. A P Shah who in 2009 gave the Delhi High Court judgment striking down section 377 said following this verdict there is very little room to defend it now. It is non bailable and punishment calls for life imprisonment. The law is outdated, unreasonable and grossly misused. It should go.
Aadhar will stay but there will be guidelines for its usage.
There are many other things which will be touched with this judgement like decision to terminate pregnancy, decision to end life etc. It will be interesting to see its impact as things evolve.