SC hearing on right to privacy begins today
A fivejudge bench said that the larger bench would examine the correctness of the two judgements in which it was held that right to privacy was not a fundamental right.
A nine-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments on Wednesday whether there is a fundamental “right to privacy” under the Constitution, which is affected by the furnishing of personal and biometric information for the Aadhaar number.
A five-judge bench of Chief Justice J.S. Khehar and Justices J. Chelameswar, S.A. Bobde, D.Y. Chandrachud and S. Abdul Nazeer, hearing a batch of petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Aadhaar card, referred the matter to a nine-judge bench.
The petitioners, former judge of Karnataka high court Justice K.S. Puttaswamy and others, had contended that the biometric data and iris scan that was being collected for the issuance of Aadhaar card violated the fundamental right to privacy of the citizens as personal data was not protected, and was vulnerable to exposure and misuse.
It was argued that right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution would include right to privacy though it was not expressly stated in the Constitution.
Attorney-general K.K. Venugopal, however, brought to the notice of the top court that an eightjudge bench in 1954 and a six-judge bench in 1962 had categorically ruled that ‘right to privacy’ was not a fundamental right.
He also said such a right had not been expressly provided in the Constitution, though under the British Common Law right to privacy was a fundamental right.
He said judicial discipline warrants that a larger bench of nine judges should go into the correctness of the two earlier judgments.
Refusing to accept the attorney-general’s submission, Justice Chelameswar observed, “In a Republic founded on a written Constitution in India, it is difficult to accept there is no fundamental right to privacy.”
A nine-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court will determine on Wednesday whether there is any fundamental ‘right of privacy’ under the Constitution, which arose in furnishing of personal and biometric information under the Aadhaar card. Refusing to accept the attorney-general’s submission, Justice Chelameswar observed, “In a Republic founded on a written Constitution in India, it is difficult to accept there is no fundamental right to privacy, whereas the same is available in Common Law, an unwritten Constitution. There are a lot of judgments saying privacy is a fundamental right, we cannot ignore them. We have to give serious thought to this question.”
The petitioners argued that though an eightjudge bench and sixjudge bench had held that the right to privacy was not a fundamental right, the position had changed in the context of India signing the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
They pointed out that the apex court had in a catena of cases had expanded the scope of “right to life” under Article 21 to include “right to environment”, “right to clean air”, “right to sleep” and “right to privacy” was also implicitly protected under Article 21.
It has been alleged that the Aadhaar scheme infringes on the ‘fundamental right to privacy’.