Right to Privacy not less than judiciary’s gift to citizens!

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UID Card by Shailendra (19)A recent historic and momentous judgement by the Supreme Court declaring privacy as a fundamental right has not been able to generate the kind of euphoria that it deserved because of another epoch making judgement on triple talaq and the mayhem after a CBI court convicted a notorious guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim of rape. The nine-Judge Bench Supreme Court judgment conclusively declaring privacy a fundamental right which is protected by Article 21, upholds civil liberties. It is a milestone in the history of the Indian Republic and a victory for every Indian. It is a momentous judgement in the 70th year of Independence. The Apex court has ruled that citizens have a right to privacy, which is fundamental to a dignified human existence. The Court has held that privacy includes the family life, marriage, procreation, the home and sexual orientation. By doing so, the court has affirmed an unwritten and ambiguous right as a fundamental right. Significantly, privacy as a fundamental right has not been given a separate legal status in any country and across the world, it has arisen only out of judicial decisions. With this, the Supreme Court has overturned two previous judgments on the issue and has now provided the citizens protection against surveillance by the State, confidentiality, compelled speech and freedom to dissent, hold a different view and personal dignity.

The issue of privacy violation had arisen over the government asking the citizens to provide the State agencies personal information for Aadhaar- the 12-digit biometric unique identification number. Started as a well-meaning digital initiative to make welfare and subsidy payments transparent, Aadhaar has been made mandatory for a host of other activities, including financial transactions, bank and mobile accounts, and filing of tax returns. So much so that even private service providers are insisting on linkages of Aadhaar with their products to avail their services.

The historic verdict has wider implications as with this judgment; the Supreme Court has reopened a debate on many contentious issues like the rights of the LGBT-lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. There is a question mark as to whether the sexual orientation of an individual is a matter of privacy or not? The December 2013 SC judgment on homosexuality had rejected privacy claims of LGBT community. Similarly, the government that had opposed privacy as a fundamental right must now need to convince the apex court that collection of bio metric data through Aadhaar cards was bona fide and in public interest.ey were out at night or dressed up inappropriately?