SC reserves order on right to privacy

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday reserved its judgment on whether the right to privacy can be considered a fundamental right under the Indian Constitution.

The nine-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice J.S. Khehar reserved the order after hearing the matter in the last two weeks.

The bench comprises Justice J. Chelameswar, Justice S.A. Bobde, Justice R.K. Agrawal, Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman, Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer.

During the hearing, the Gujarat government told the court that transparency is a key component in the technological era and providing basic personal information could not be covered under the right to privacy.

Some aspects of privacy may be traced to various fundamental rights but providing basic personal information to authorities was needed to bring in more transparency in the present technological era, Senior Advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for the Gujarat government, told the bench.

Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the central government, had earlier told the court that there is “no fundamental right to privacy”, as it is multi-faceted and every facet will not be eligible to claim the status of a fundamental right.

Senior Advocate Aryama Sundaram, appearing for Maharashtra, echoed the stand that privacy is not a fundamental right.

Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, representing states not ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party — Karnataka, West Bengal, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, and Puducherry — had backed the constitutionality of the right to privacy.

Sibal had told the court that these states supported the contention that the right to privacy be held as fundamental right in the age of technological advancements.

Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which is responsible for issuing Aadhaar cards, had told the court that a person’s privacy is protected by various statutes enacted by Parliament and not be declared as a fundamental right.

Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing UIDAI, said the government has set up a 10-member committee of experts to deliberate on data protection framework and draft a bill on it.

The nine-judge bench is examining the nature of privacy as a right and also the correctness of two judgments of 1954 and 1962 which had held that the right to privacy was not a fundamental right.

The matter is being heard by the Constitution Bench in the wake of challenge to the Aadhaar scheme on the grounds of it being violative of the right to privacy.

Petitioners include former Karnataka High Court Judge K.S. Puttaswamy, first Chairperson of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and Magsaysay awardee Shanta Sinha, feminist researcher Kalyani Sen Menon, and others.