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Right to privacy not absolute, observes SC

The right to privacy is not absolute and cannot be catalogued as it includes everything, a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court said on Wednesday. The top court is revisiting the question of privacy, 55 years after the Supreme Court decided that privacy is not a basic right for citizens. The decision of the judges is pivotal to petitions that challenge making the Aadhaar scheme mandatory for millions of Indians.
A nine-judge Constitution bench on Wednesday began hearing arguments to determine whether the right to privacy is a fundamental right under the Constitution.
Senior advocate Gopal Subramanium initiated the hearing before the bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar saying that the rights to life and liberty are pre-existing natural rights.
The bench is dealing with the limited issue of the right to privacy and matters challenging the Aadhaar scheme would be referred back to a smaller bench.
The Centre on Wednesday submitted in the Supreme Court that right to privacy cannot fall in the bracket of fundamental rights as there are binding decisions of larger benches that it is only a common law right evolved through judicial pronouncements.
It said it is only the unauthorised intrusions into one's privacy which is protected under Article 21 of the Constitution.
The apex court had on Tuesday set up the Constitution bench after the matter was referred to a larger bench by a five-judge bench.
The five-judge Constitution bench headed by the CJI, which was to deal with pleas challenging the validity of the Aadhaar scheme and the right to privacy attached to it, was faced with the two past verdicts, delivered in 1950 and 1962 by larger benches, holding that the right to privacy was not a fundamental right.
The apex court had agreed to set up a bench on July 12 to deal with Aadhaar-related matters after the attorney general and senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for petitioners, had jointly mentioned the matter.
The petitioners had claimed that collection and sharing of biometric information, as required under the scheme, was a breach of the "fundamental" right to privacy.
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