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Justice K. S. Puttaswamy (Retd) and Another vs Union of India and Others


Authored by - Anjali Shekhawat

Keywords - Right to privacy, Aadhar, UIDAI, Aadhar verdict


Parties Involved:


Appellant: Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (RETD.)

Respondent: Union of India

Bench: D.Y. Chandrachud, Jagdish Singh Khehar, Abdul Nazeer, A. Bobde, K Kaul, Jasti Chelameswar, Rohinton Nariman, Abhay Sapre, R. K. Aggarwal

Court - Supreme Court of India


Abstract


The world of technology, where everybody is surrounded by digital apps, digital platforms for shopping, bill payments; almost everything has been digitalized and India like any other country is constantly turning into a fully digitalized nation. Every single website or platform requires a certain acceptance of terms and conditions related to privacy and requires the registration of one's data to ensure accessibility. Under such circumstances, it is extremely necessary to recognize the right to privacy of people and ensuring that any intrusion by any organization would be considered as a violation and could invite criminal prosecution. Personal data of individuals have to be protected to shield them from any misuse and to ensure that they can relish their individuality. "Privacy is a concomitant of an individual’s right to exercise control over his personality and finds its origin in the notion that certain natural or inherent rights are inseparable from the human personality[1]." The 9-judge constitutional bench on 24th August 2017 secured to Indian citizens the 'right to privacy' under the Part-3 of the Indian Constitution.


Introduction


Aadhar, in the English base, the primary identification of oneself among millions of people in our country. The unique identification of every citizen which makes them the only one, which identifies the existence of every individual in our country distinctly and uniquely. The Aadhaar card scheme was framed to bring about a collection of data of our individual in our country which included their biometrics in it. The Aadhar was aimed to be used everywhere including bus tickets, train tickets, traveling, bank accounts, etc. This would appear to be a significant and outstanding effort by the Indian government. And as claimed by the government, it also seems necessary for the target distribution of services to the deserving mass. But this all seems perfect for a society where there would be no evils, no infringement, no misuse, and no intrusion by any type of organization under the government. The government demanded people to provide them with details like their biometrics and other services acquired by them in day to day life. How can a person be demanded to hand over his whole personal data to the government and at the same time enjoy the basic liberty indispensable to an individual? The life and livelihood of a person are very personal to him and the right to enjoy that without any intrusion should be and has to make available to every individual without a question, only this would enable a person to live his life without the constant fear of being watched or being under surveillance. The same question was raised against the Aadhar Act in 2012, following which the SC gave the final judgment on 24th August 2017. In the Aadhar verdict, Supreme Court upheld the Aadhaar Act but at the same time, the court ensured that the right to privacy is an intrinsic right under Part -3 of the constitution and also scraped certain provisions to protect the privacy of the citizens. The court reiterated that the data is securely stored, the object of Aadhaar is Bonafide for the better utilization of resources for the deserved people and surveillance is not possible by Aadhar.


Background of the Case


The then finance minister Arun Jaitley introduced Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, benefits and services) Act, 2016 as a money bill on 3 March 2016 in Lok Sabha which was later passed on 11 March 2016[2]. The Bill was aimed at securing and providing the citizens with a unique identity. The same Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) was established in 2009 under the aegis of the Indian government. Aadhar is a 12-digit number given to an individual for the identification purpose at every transaction. Aadhar has faced many controversies and scrutiny.

Facts in Brief


In November 2012 a writ petition was filed by Retired Justice K S Puttaswamy and Mr. Parvesh Sharma challenging the Aadhaar, a unique identification scheme on the basis that infringes fundamental rights of the citizens under Art 21. The Act was finally passed by the government in 2016 and another writ petition was filed in the court, which was later merged with the previous petition. Later, a petition was filed questioning the treatment of the Aadhaar Bill as a money bill by Jairam Ramesh, the former Union minister, and Congress leader. On 24th August 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that the right to privacy is a Fundamental Right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution[3]. The Aadhaar case was heard on 17th January 2018 and questions arise against the linking of Adhar with mobile, bank accounts, etc. On 26th September 2018, the Aadhaar Act was upheld by SC and certain provisions were scraped maintaining the right to privacy of the citizens


Issues


· Whether or not 'the right to privacy' should be treated as a fundamental right?

· Whether or not the citizens are entitled to the right to privacy?

· Whether or not, the earlier judgments, M.P. Sharma & Ors. vs. Satish Chandra, DM, Delhi & Ors. And Kharak Singh vs. The State of U.P, were justified to deny the right to privacy as a fundamental right?


Judgment


A 9-judge constitutional bench of the Supreme Court gave the final verdict in 2017 declaring 'right to privacy' is covered under the fundamental right under Art 21. The judgment was authored by Justice D. Y. Chandrachud on behalf of the majority. The court reiterated that “Dignity cannot exist without privacy. Both reside within the inalienable values of life, liberty, and freedom which the Constitution has recognized. Privacy is the ultimate expression of the sanctity of the individual. It is a constitutional value that straddles across the spectrum of fundamental rights and protects for the individual a zone of choice and self-determination[4].” Further, the court overruled its previous judgments in the M P Sharma case and Kharak Singh case; and declared that privacy is significant to one's individuality. The court clarified that "the right to privacy incorporates three aspects: repose, sanctuary, and intimate decision[5]." The court stated that "Privacy constitutes the springboard for the exercise of the freedoms guaranteed by Part III[6]".


Analysis


Privacy has been declared to be indispensable to a person and his individuality. The court through the Right to privacy has opened new dimensions of rights for an individual. This has led to many more arguments such as infringement of privacy of a woman by marital rape, the right to choose their partner to everyone leading to recognition of the LGBTQ community, etc. Such significant developments show that judgment is indeed a remarkable step taken by the Supreme Court towards the upliftment of the justice system. The 'right to privacy' was much needed in today's technological world. New debates such as Infringement and intrusion of privacy by the Arogya Setu App, are arising under the domain of this right. "The Constitution must evolve to meet the aspirations and challenges of the present and the future... In an age where information technology governs virtually every aspect of our lives, the Courts must impart meaning to the concept of individual liberty, particularly where an overarching presence of State and non-State entities regulate aspects of social existence which bear upon the freedom of an individual. Every individual irrespective of social or economic status is entitled to the intimacy and autonomy which privacy protects[7]."


References

[1] K. S. Puttaswamy v. UOI, Writ petition (civil) no. 494 of 2012, https://main.sci.gov.in/supremecourt/2012/35071/35071_2012_Judgement_24-Aug-2017.pdf

[2] Vrinda Bhandari, Smriti Parsheera, Faiza Rahman, Amba Kak, "An Analysis of Puttaswamy: The Supreme Court's Privacy Verdict", IndraStra Global, 8th November 2017, ISSN2381-3652. https://www.indrastra.com/2017/11/An-Analysis-of-Puttaswamy-Supreme-Court-s-Privacy-Verdict-003-11-2017-0004.html [3] K. S. Puttaswamy v. UOI, WRIT PETITION(CIVIL) NO. 494 of 2012, https://indiankanoon.org/doc/127517806/ [4] K. S. Puttaswamy v. UOI, Writ petition (civil) no. 494 of 2012, https://main.sci.gov.in/supremecourt/2012/35071/35071_2012_Judgement_24-Aug-2017.pdf [5] K. S. Puttaswamy v. UOI, Writ petition (civil) no. 494 of 2012, https://main.sci.gov.in/supremecourt/2012/35071/35071_2012_Judgement_24-Aug-2017.pdf [6] K. S. Puttaswamy v. UOI, Writ petition (civil) no. 494 of 2012, https://main.sci.gov.in/supremecourt/2012/35071/35071_2012_Judgement_24-Aug-2017.pdf [7] “Fundamental Right to Privacy”, K S Puttaswamy v. UOI, Supreme Court Observer, https://www.scobserver.in/court-case/fundamental-right-to-privacy.