Yes, privacy right is fundamental: SC
New Delhi: A nine-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar, unanimously declared on Thursday that the right to privacy is a Fundamental right under the Constitution. The Bench's ruling, which stated that that "right to privacy is an intrinsic part of Right to Life and Personal Liberty under Article 21 and entire Part III of the Constitution," was made in response to a batch of petitions challenging the Centre's move to make Aadhaar mandatory for availing the benefits of various social welfare schemes.
While the Centre had argued that the right to privacy is not a Fundamental right, the petitioners had contended that when a citizen gives his biometrics and personal details to the government and when in turn, it is used by commercial organisations, it is a breach of privacy. The judgement was limited to the issue of right to privacy and the question whether Aadhaar violates right to privacy will be dealt with by the five-judge bench which has been hearing the petitions since 2015.
In Thursday's judgement, other members of the bench comprising Justices J Chelameswar, S A Bobde, R K Agrawal, R F Nariman, A M Sapre, D Y Chandrachud, S K Kaul and S Abdul Nazeer also shared the same view. The nine judges unanimously overruled the two earlier judgements of the apex court that right to privacy is not protected under the Constitution. The bench overruled the M P Sharma verdict of 1950 and that of Kharak Singh of 1960.
The judgement in the Kharak Singh case was pronounced by six RPT six judges and in M P Sharma it was delivered by eight RPT eight judges. Justice Khehar, who read the operative portion of the judgement, said the subsequent verdicts pronounced after M P Sharma and Kharak Singh have laid down the correct position of the law.
Before pronouncing the judgement, the CJI said that among the nine judges some of them have authored different orders. The verdict was reserved after hearing marathon arguments for six days over a period of three weeks, during which submissions were advanced in favour and against the inclusion of the right to privacy as a fundamental right.
Rights should be subject to reasonable restrictions: Govt
New Delhi: Welcoming the Supreme Court verdict holding privacy as a fundamental right, the Government on Thursday said the right should be subject to "reasonable restrictions". Law and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that much before the nine-judge bench was constituted in the apex court to decide on the issue of privacy, the Modi government had told Parliament that privacy is a fundamental right.
"We welcome the Supreme Court judgement that privacy should be a fundamental right... The government has been consistently of the view, particularly with regard to Aadhaar, that right to privacy should be a fundamental right and it should be subject to reasonable restrictions," he told a press conference convened to respond to the landmark apex court verdict.
Prasad also quoted Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's statement in Rajya Sabha in March last year where he said that privacy as a right is subject to restrictions. The law and IT minister said that even the right to expression is fundamental. But no one is allowed to protest before Rashtrapati Bhawan without clothes. Even freedom of speech cannot cross the threshold set by the defamation law.
Responding to a series of questions on Aadhaar and the data linked to it, he said that only a limited set of information is in the public domain, the encrypted data, including biometrics is "completely safe and secure". He claimed the previous UPA government had introduced Aadhaar scheme without any legislative support.
Mamata hails 'bold' decision
Kolkata: Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee welcomed the Supreme Court verdict. Soon after the apex court's judgement, Banerjee tweeted," We welcome this verdict by Honourable Supreme Court #RightToPrivacy is a Fundamental Right." While leaving the state secretariat Nabanna, the CM said, "The verdict regarding Aadhar is a bold decision." Earlier, the CM had expressed strong opposition to the Centre's move making Aadhaar mandatory for opening bank accounts and conducting financial transactions of Rs 50,000 and above. "The poorest of the poor, the marginalised people will be the worst sufferers if #Aadhaar is made mandatory unilaterally," she had said in a tweet.
Any judgement that enlarges fundamental rights is welcome: Soli Sorabjee
New Delhi: Former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee said on Thursday that the landmark Supreme Court verdict on privacy "is a very progressive judgement and protects the fundamental rights of the people. Privacy is a basic right which is inherent in every individual."
"The unanimity of the Bench in giving this decision shows a very good approach of the Supreme Court. Any judgement which enlarges the fundamental rights of the people should be welcome," he added. Asked about the judgement's impact on Aadhaar, Sorabjee explained, "You cannot make a blanket and categorical statement that Aaadhaar will be banned or is unconstitutional."
"No fundamental right is absolute. It is always subject to reasonable restrictions," he pointed out.