Justice K.S.Puttaswamy (Retd). Vs. Union of India

Background

India's 'Right to Privacy' jurisprudence is based on this case. In this judgment, the nine-judge bench unanimously reaffirmed the right to privacy as a basic right under the Indian Constitution. According to the Court, the right to privacy is an important part of the freedoms provided by fundamental rights, as well as an intrinsic feature of dignity, autonomy, and liberty.

The lawsuit began with a debate over whether the right to privacy constituted a fundamental right, which arose in 2015 during disputes over the legal legitimacy of the Aadhaar database. In light of the two decisions in the cases of M.P. Sharma vs. Satish Chandra, District Magistrate, Delhi ((1954) SCR 1077), rendered by an eight-judge bench, and Kharak Singh vs. State of Uttar Pradesh ((1964) 1 SCR 332), rendered by a six-judge bench, the Attorney General appearing for the State argued that the existence of the right to privacy as a fundamental right of privacy was not particularly protected as a basic right by the Constitution. Simultaneously, several following judgments had recognized the right to privacy as a basic right over the years. However, later rulings affirming the existence of the right to privacy were made by benches that were not as powerful as M.P. Sharma and Kharak Singh. This case was submitted to a nine-judge Supreme Court bench due to issues relating to the precedential value of judgments and the far-reaching implications of the right to privacy.

"The right to privacy is safeguarded as an integral aspect of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 and as part of the freedoms granted by Part III of the Constitution," the Court unanimously concluded. It did so by overturning prior Supreme Court decisions in M.P. Sharma and Kharak Singh, which found that the right to privacy was not recognized by the Indian Constitution.

This decision not only established the right to privacy as a fundamental right, but it also established the need for a new data privacy law to be implemented, broadened the extent of privacy in personal areas, and discussed privacy as an essential value.

Fact

The Government of India launched a scheme called "Unique Identification for BPL Families." For the project, a committee was formed. The Committee for the Project advised that a Unique Identification database be created. It was agreed that the project would be broken down into three stages.

The Planning Commission of India issued a notification on UIDAI in January 2009. (Unique Identification Authority of India). In 2010, the National Identification Authority of India Bill was passed by the Commission. Mr. Parvesh Sharma and retired Justice K S Puttaswamy filed a PIL Writ Petition in the Supreme Court in November 2012, disputing the validity of Aadhaar.

The system was challenged because it infringed on fundamental rights. The initiative infringed on Indian people’s right to privacy under Article 21. A succession of orders was issued following the filing of this writ suit. In 2016, the Aadhaar Act was passed. The petitioners subsequently filed a second writ petition, this time contesting the Act's constitutionality. After that, this writ petition was consolidated with the preceding one and processed as a single writ petition.

In May 2017, Jairam Ramesh, a former Union minister, and Congress leader filed a petition with the Supreme Court. He was perplexed as to why the Aadhaar Issue was treated as if it were a money bill.

The Supreme Court of India ruled on the 24th of August 2017 that the right to privacy is a

Fundamental Right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. On January 17, 2018, the Supreme Court began hearing the Aadhaar case. The Supreme Court questioned the Centre on April 25, 2018, about linking Aadhaar to mobile phones. The Supreme Court upheld the validity of the Aadhaar card on September 26, 2018, but ruled down several sections, including the required linking of Aadhaar with mobile phones, bank accounts, and school admissions.


Issue

Whether or whether the right to privacy was a basic right under India's Constitution's Part III.

Is the Court's conclusion in M.P. Sharma & Ors. vs. Satish Chandra, DM, Delhi & Ors., and also in Kharak Singh vs. The State of U.P., that there are no such fundamental rights, the proper statement of the constitutional position?


Judgment

On August 24, 2017, a nine-judge panel of the Supreme Court of India issued a landmark judgment upholding Article 21 of India's constitution, which guarantees the right to privacy.

"No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure prescribed by law," says Article 21 of the Constitution.

According to the judgment, privacy would be an integral part of Part III of the Indian Constitution, which establishes people's fundamental rights. The Supreme Court went on to say that the government must strike a careful balance between individual privacy and the legitimate objective at all costs because fundamental rights cannot be granted or taken away by legislation, and all laws and activities must be by the constitution. The Court also stated that the right to privacy is not absolute and that any invasion of privacy by a state or non-state actor must pass the triple test, which includes the following:

1. Legitimate Aim

2. The proportionality principle

3. Compliance with the law

The decision of all nine judges holds that:

(1) the decision in M P Sharma vs. Satish Chandra's ruling that the Indian Constitution does not safeguard the right to privacy has been overruled;

(2) the decision in Kharak Singh vs. the State of UP, to the extent that it holds that the right to privacy is not protected by the Constitution, is also overturned.

(3) The right to privacy is protected in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution as an integral part of the right to life and personal liberty, as well as one of the freedoms provided by Part III of the Constitution.



This article is written by Pooja Bisht of Fairfield Institute of Management & Technology.

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