On Thursday, 24th August, a bench of 9 Supreme Court judges unanimously passed the judgement that states - as an Indian citizen ‘Right To Privacy’ is our fundamental right under Article 21.
If you are even mildly active on social media, you are bound to have seen these words pop up on your feeds. Some of you might have stopped to pay attention, some of you would have continued with your zombie like scrolling (can’t blame you, put together fundamental and rights and it almost seems too much to handle!) and some of you, like us, would have genuinely found yourself puzzled about how we are still fighting for fundamental rights? Didn’t we get them back around Independence?
This article is for all of the above kind of people. Because the fact is, this SC judgement affects all of us and you need to know why!
In case you have forgotten those political science lessons, fundamental rights are the basic rights that every citizen has in order to live a peaceful life. Right to privacy falls under the right to life and liberty.
“Right to privacy has always been accepted by the Hon’bl Supreme Court but never as a fundamental right. This was again reiterated by the SC in 1964. But now, with the Aadhar Act, there was a challenge to the Supreme Court that this is an infringement of the citizen’s right to privacy with it requiring people’s fingerprints and retina scan. Which is why the 9 judge bench sat down for this judgement.” clarifies Divyaprakash Pandey, Advocate in Supreme Court.
A fundamental right is something that gives the citizens of this country a minimum safeguard. So by pronouncing right to privacy as a fundamental right the Supreme Court has actually given the citizens something that cannot be taken away even by the Government, Court or Act. “The supreme court has always pronounced that none of the fundamental rights are absolute.” says Pandey. All rights have “reasonable restrictions” For the simple reason that one person could want to murder someone, and though it is completely a personal decision, it would hardly be fair for the person being murdered!
Not yet. The court has done nothing to the Aadhar Act but when the hearing for right to privacy act began “the primary question was whether we can test the legislation on the grounds of privacy or not?” says Pandey. Deciding that right to privacy is a fundamental right in today’s scenario will definitely put the Aadhar Act to a test. If any provisions of the act are now infringing the fundamental rights, it can be set aside.
Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code criminalizes any sexual activity between two individuals which is against the “order of nature” AKA homosexuals, transgenders, lesbians, bisexual individuals are all criminals. With right to privacy, everybody’s personal affairs are just that - personal. This brings a huge loophole in article 377 because how can you criminalize a private affair? So yes, right to privacy is a BIG jump for everyone fighting against article 377.
Right to privacy will now become a major tool to fight various bans, restrictions and even derogatory statements that we have seen in the past few years. For example, you are free to eat what you want which puts a valid question on the beef ban. You are also free to wear what you want so the next time someone tells you your dress is too short, tell them it’s your damn fundamental right!
There are many aspects of making right to privacy a fundamental right (it’s a 547 page judgement, after all!). But to sum it up from the words of the judgement itself -