New Delhi, Aug 24, 2017: The Supreme Court’s nine judge bench on Thursday held that the right to privacy is a fundamental right and is an intrinsic part of the right to life and liberty.
The bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar ruled 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”.
During the arguments, submissions were advanced in favour and against the inclusion of the right to privacy as a fundamental right. The contentious issue came to the fore when the Supreme Court was hearing a batch of petitions challenging Centre’s decision to make Aadhaar mandatory for availing benefits of several government-sponsored social welfare schemes.
The five-judge bench, led by Chief Justice J S Khehar, met on July 18 to decide the issue, but was told by the Centre that the strength of the bench was inadequate as an eight judge bench in the M P Sharma case in 1954, and a six judge bench in the Kharak Singh case in 1962, had ruled that right to privacy was not a fundamental right. The bench was quick to refer the matter to a nine-judge bench, which began hearing arguments from July 19, and concluded hearing on August 2, after a lively debate involving renowned lawyers to greenhorns.
However, the Centre took the position that privacy could be a fundamental right, but a “wholly qualified” one, implying that it would be subject to reasonable restrictions like other fundamental rights. Attorney General K K Venugopal said “since the right to privacy consists of diverse aspects and is a sub-species of the right to liberty, every aspect of sub-species will not qualify as a fundamental right”. He sought to stress that privacy as a right could not be seen in isolation and was, in fact, a “conglomerate of rights” which had to be treated on case-to-case basis.
Though the question of Aadhaar was not being debated during this hearing, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the nodal agency for implementing Aadhaar and a party in the matter, sought to reassure the court that “privacy and confidentiality were non-negotiable under the Aadhaar Act”.