Pri­vacy is a fun­da­men­tal right! Here’s what it means

Baf­fled by the supreme court’s rul­ing on Right to Pri­vacy? Su­nil Abra­ham de­codes the judg­ment for us

Governance Now - - FRONT PAGE - As told to Pratap Vikram Singh

Pri­vacy is now a fun­da­men­tal right! But are you baf­fled by the supreme court’s rul­ing on Right to Pri­vacy? Cen­tre for In­ter­net and So­ci­ety’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Su­nil Abra­ham de­codes the judg­ment for us.

What does the SC judg­ment on pri­vacy mean for the com­mon man?

cit­i­zens can ap­proach any court if the state or a pri­vate cor­po­ra­tion is in­fring­ing on their pri­vacy, as it is now a fun­da­men­tal right. As and when the gov­ern­ment brings a data pro­tec­tion or pri­vacy law it will pro­vide for set­ting up an ad­min­is­tra­tive sys­tem to ad­dress peo­ple’s con­cerns.

What does it mean for the

pro­posed law on ‘right to pri­vacy’?

The gov­ern­ment has re­cently ap­pointed a com­mit­tee headed by jus­tice Bn srikr­ishna, a for­mer judge of the supreme court, to make a draft data pro­tec­tion law. With the sc’s Au­gust 24 rul­ing, the pri­vacy law will have a bet­ter stan­dard of safe­guards. The pro­tec­tion will be higher.

What was the re­course avail­able un­til now?

The sec­tion 43A of the it Act, 2000, said that only if an act “causes wrong­ful loss or wrong­ful gain to any per­son such body cor­po­rate shall be li­able to pay dam­ages by way of com­pen­sa­tion, not ex­ceed­ing five crore ru­pees, to the per­son so af­fected”. An act of break­ing in to the email may not nec­es­sar­ily be con­sid­ered il­le­gal. more­over, this sec­tion ap­plies only in cases where the data con­troller is a body cor­po­rate or any per­son lo­cated in in­dia. it doesn’t cover the gov­ern­ment.

How will the sit­u­a­tion change now?

now the mere act of break­ing into per­sonal email will be il­le­gal and a pun­ish­able, as the pro­posed data pro­tec­tion/ pri­vacy law will de­fine it.

What is the gov­ern­ment’s po­si­tion af­ter the ver­dict?

Af­ter fight­ing hard in the court that pri­vacy is not a fun­da­men­tal right, post-ver­dict the gov­ern­ment has wel­comed the apex court’s judg­ment and blamed the congress party for ‘che­quered his­tory’ on the is­sue of per­sonal lib­erty.

What does it mean for Dig­i­tal In­dia?

since the pro­posed data pro­tec­tion/ pri­vacy law will be for­mu­lated on the ba­sis of the pri­vacy judg­ment, the gov­ern­ment apps and those re­lated to bank­ing and pay­ments are ex­pected to come up with pri­vacy safe­guards. Be­side sec­tion 43A of the it Act, which cov­ers body cor­po­rate and an in­di­vid­ual, the judg­ment now em­pow­ers peo­ple to file a case against and seek com­pen­sa­tion from the gov­ern­ment.

What does it mean for Aad­haar?

The de­ci­sion on pri­vacy doesn’t nul­lify the Aad­haar law or the work it has done so far. The Aad­haar re­lated mat­ter is al­ready be­ing heard by a five-judge bench of the SC. Un­der the Aad­haar Act, 2016, peo­ple can only ap­proach the court through the unique Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Author­ity of In­dia (UIDAI). They can’t go straight to the court on their own or file an FIR in a po­lice sta­tion in case of vi­o­la­tion of their pri­vacy. With sc’s pri­vacy judg­ment, how­ever, peo­ple can ap­proach the court di­rectly and they won’t have to go through the uidai. if one feels that some part of the project [Aad­haar] is an in­fringe­ment, one can ap­proach the court di­rectly.

What does it mean for di­rect ben­e­fit trans­fer (DBT)?

The DBT sta­tus will con­tinue to be the same un­less the Aad­haar-re­lated hear­ing at the sc is com­pleted.

What does it mean for pri­vate cor­po­ra­tions like Face­book and Google, which are of­ten ac­cused of hav­ing lower stan­dards re­lated to pri­vacy?

go­ing by the apex court’s or­der, the threat to pri­vacy not only comes from the gov­ern­ment but also from pri­vate cor­po­ra­tions. now with the judg­ment the cor­po­ra­tions are ex­pected to proac­tively bet­ter pri­vacy safe­guards. now if peo­ple find ac­tiv­i­ties of the in­ter­net plat­forms un­law­ful they may file law suits against them.

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