Supreme Court Reserves Judgement in ‘Right to Privacy’ Case

Decision on whether privacy can be considered a fundamental right is likely to come out by end of August.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday concluded its hearings into the ‘right to privacy’ case and has reserved its judgement as to whether privacy can be considered a fundamental right.

According to legal experts, the judgement is likely expected in the last week of August.

Over the last two weeks, a nine-judge bench headed by Chief Justice J.S Khehar has been examining the nature of privacy as right in the context of two earlier judgements in 1954 and 1962 which had held that the right to privacy was not a fundamental right.

This bench of nine justices was set up as a result of a batch of petitions that challenged that constitutional validity of the Aadhaar scheme, with a number of petitioners alleging that the biometric authentication system violated the privacy of Indians.

The government’s counsels, in large part, have consistently maintained that the Supreme Court should not recognise as a fundamental right. The arguments advanced centred around the balancing the need for privacy versus social and economic justice, that privacy was largely an elite concept and that only wrong-doers asked for privacy rights.

On Wednesday, Vidhi Center for Legal Policy’s Arghya Sengupta, representing the State of Haryana and telecom regulator TRAI argued that the existing right to liberty sufficiently covered privacy on a case-to-case basis and that no new jurisprudence was required.

Senior lawyers appearing for the petitioners – including among others Gopal Subramanium, Shyam Divan and Arvind Datar–  on the other hand have argued that the right to privacy is at the heart of liberty and freedom.

On Wednesday, Subramanium pointed out that none of the existing fundamental rights could be exercised without assuming a certain sense of privacy. “Liberty existed prior to constitutional era and the law had merely recognised its existence. Liberty is fundamental to democracy and citizens cannot exist without privacy”.