Medical

Big day for KK Venugopal as Supreme Court hears privacy case today

Big day for KK Venugopal as Supreme Court hears privacy case today

Deviating from its earlier stand, the Centre on Wednesday told the Supreme Court privacy is indeed a fundamental right, but a "qualified" one.

The contentious issue of whether the right is a fundamental one was referred to a larger bench in 2015 after the Centre underlined two judgements delivered in 1950 and 1962 by the apex court that had held it was not a fundamental right.

"There is a fundamental right to privacy, but it is a wholly qualified right since the right to privacy consists of various aspects and is a sub-species of the right to liberty, every aspect of it will not qualify as a fundamental right", Attorney General KK Venugopal was quoted as saying by The Times of India.

"The right to privacy is recognised as a fundamental right under Article 21 (right to life and liberty) of the Constitution".

The Centre, which conceded in the Supreme Court that the right to privacy may be held as a fundamental right with certain riders, today termed it as a "vague and amorphous" right which can not be granted primacy to deprive poor people of their rights to life, food and shelter. However, it noted all aspects of privacy such as liberty could not qualify as fundamental rights.

However Venugopal's argument is that the expression "privacy" along with "right to life and liberty" in Article 21 was consciously avoided.




Last week, the apex court said that without legally defining privacy as a right, it can not be considered a fundamental right.

Privacy rights became a hotly debated subject after the government decided people must provide their 12-digit Aadhaar identification number to get social benefits and to file tax returns. "Every facet can't be ipso facto considered a fundamental right", Venugopal told the bench, which also comprised Justices J. Chelameswar, S.A. Bobde, R.K. Agrawal, Rohinton Fali Nariman, Abhay Manohar Sapre, D.Y. Chandrachud, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and S. Abdul Nazeer.

During the day-long hearing, the government walked a fine line and fell short of taking a clear stand before a rare nine-judge Constitution bench formed to determine whether individual privacy is a fundamental right protected by the Constitution.

Justice Chadndrachud observed that one can't deny the submission of data to the government agencies but there should be a control over it to prevent misuse from the private intrusion and will be used only for the objective which is meant to. It was intrinsic in this argument that certain aspects were part of fundamental rights. The CJI then pointed out that "the question of circumstances in which it arises is possible only when privacy is a fundamental right". Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who appeared for the states of Karnataka, West Bengal, Punjab, and the Union Territory of Pondicherry, said that privacy was indeed a fundamental right, but added, it was not absolute, and the court would have to strike a balance between rights and restrictions.

Live Law has carried the written submission made by Sibal.

"Privacy can not be an absolute right, but it is a fundamental right". The nine-judge bench, however, said, "So, now you concede that there is a right to privacy. Judgments from countries such as the USA on privacy can not be applied in India, India is a developing country with different facets". The hearing remained inconclusive and will continue on Thursday.


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