Privacy is your fundamental right, says Supreme Court: Meet the nine judges who guaranteed historic verdict

A nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court pronounced their verdict on Right to Privacy on Thursday.

The ruling has determined the equation between Indian citizens and the State in the digital era. The right to privacy also impacts the outcome of several cases where aspects of Aadhaar have been challenged, with petitioners arguing that making the scheme mandatory violates Right to Privacy.

The nine judges who pronounced the verdict are: Chief Justice of India JS Khehar, justices Jasti Chelameswar, SA Bobde, RK Agarwal, Rohinton Nariman, AM Sapre, DY Chandrachud, SK Kaul and S Abdul Nazeer.

According to PTI, a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Khehar had said that the larger bench would examine the correctness of the two judgments delivered in the cases of Kharak Singh and MP Sharma which held that privacy was not a fundamental right.

While the Kharak Singh ruling was delivered by a six-judge bench in 1962, the MP Sharma verdict was reported in 1954 and delivered by an eight-judge Constitution Bench.

Here's a profile of the nine judges who determined the way we view privacy:

1) Chief Justice JS Khehar


The verdict comes just days before the chief justice's retirement. After the historic judgment on triple talaq on Tuesday, Khehar is heading the bench that will determine the tenets of the right to privacy.

Having studied LLB and LLM at Punjab University, Chandigarh, Justice Khehar was awarded the gold medal for securing first position in the university LLM examination.

He was elevated as Chief Justice of Uttarakhand High Court on 29 November, 2009 before being transferred as Chief Justice of Karnataka High Court and then being elevated as the judge of the Supreme Court on 13 September, 2011.

Some of the cases Khehar has heard: National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC), the 2G spectrum scam, 'equal pay for equal work' and the SEBI-Sahara case where he was part of the bench which sent Subrata Roy to jail.

2) Justice Jasti Chelameswar


According to Bloomberg Quint, Justice Chelameswar was the head of the bench which delivered the 11 August, 2015 order on Aadhaar referring it to a Constitution Bench. He is also part of the Constitution Bench which will hear the Aadhaar case.

He was the only voice of dissent in a bench which struck down the NJAC. The judge has, on different occasions, voiced his disagreements on the selection procedure for judges, most recently in the Justice Karnan contempt case. Chelameswar was also part of the bench which banned a controversial law which gave the police the power to arrest anyone for posting emails which "causes annoyance or inconvenience".

3) Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde


According to a report in The Times of India, Justice Bobde is known as being a no-nonsense jurist. In legal circles, he is said to be all ears for litigants' disputes and woes and when not in court, he has an ear for Rabindra Sangeet.

Bobde was a part of the three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, along with Chelameswar, and Chokkalingam Nagappan, which ratified an earlier order of the apex court and clarified that no citizen without an Aadhaar card can be deprived of basic services and government subsidies.

4) Justice Rohinton Nariman


Son of eminent lawyer Fali Nariman, Rohinton is a distinguished jurist. On Tuesday, Justice Nariman was part of the bench that delivered the landmark judgment against triple talaq (talaq-e-biddat) where he said, "Triple talaq is a disapproved form of divorce. Even the Hanafi law says triple talaq is sinful."

Not accepting the argument that Right to Privacy was elitist, both Justice Nariman along with Justice Chandrachud emphasised that Right to Privacy was as much sacrosanct to the poor as it was to the elite, IANS reported.

"Please don't forget the little man's Right to Privacy and don't make it Aadhaar-centric. Right to Privacy is a much wider right," Justice Nariman told the Attorney-General, while noting that even the World Bank said that other developing countries should replicate the Aadhaar scheme.

Nariman earlier joined Chelameswar in striking down the law giving the police the power to arrest anyone accused of posting emails or other electronic messages which "causes annoyance or inconvenience". The judges held Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, which made such offenses punishable up to three years imprisonment, to be unconstitutional.

The judges had made the prominent statement: "What may be offensive to one may not be offensive to another. What may cause annoyance or inconvenience to one may not cause annoyance or inconvenience to another.”

Nariman also argued the cases for thespian Vijay Tendulkar and the controversial play Sakharam Binder which the senior advocate called the turning point of his life.

5) Justice DY Chandrachud


Appointed as a judge of the apex court in 2014, some of Justice Chandrachud's prominent rulings have been in the areas of constitutional law and the protection of human rights. Chandrachud has written down several articles on human rights and recently co-edited a book titled A Heritage of Judging - the Bombay High Court through One Hundred and Fifty Years on the occasion of the sesquicentennial of the high court.

According to IANS, in the right to privacy case, Justice Chandrachud has said the State can undertake the direct transfer of cash, but the Fundamental Rights of the people can't be taken away. "Your argument that the Right to Privacy applies to the elite alone is wrong, it applies to the poor people as well," the bench told the Attorney-General.

Justice Chandrachud said, “The right to privacy can’t be defined by the court as its contours are amorphous. He asked the counsel, “Can this court define privacy? You can’t make a catalogue of what constitutes privacy. Privacy is so amorphous and includes everything from liberty, dignity, religion to free movement.”

Elaborating further, he said: “If we make any attempt to catalogue privacy, it will have disastrous consequences. Privacy is a sub-sect of liberty and not necessarily co-exists with data protection. Every fundamental right can be subject to reasonable restrictions under Article 19 (2) of the Constitution and the State is entitled to regulate the right”.

Citing examples, Justice Chandrachud said, “The right to make a decision will not come under privacy. If I decide to co-habit with my wife, the police can’t barge into my bedroom. That’s my privacy. Whether I send my children to school or not, is not a matter of privacy”.

6) Justice RK Agrawal


Justice Agarwal was the chief justice of the Madras High Court before becoming a part of the Supreme Court in 2014.

7) Justice AM Sapre


Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre was the first Chief Justice of the Manipur High Court and he has also served in the Gauhati High Court. A civil and constitutional lawyer, Sapre joined the apex court in 2014.

8) Justice S Abdul Nazeer


Justice S Abdul Nazeer is known as the third judge in the country to be directly elevated to the Supreme Court without becoming the chief justice of any court. Justice Nazeer, the youngest member of the bench for the right to privacy, was part of the Constitution Bench in the triple talaq case.

9) Justice SK Kaul


Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul has been a prominent voice in upholding the freedom of speech and expression. In 2008, he quashed the obscenity case against painter MF Husain and in 2016 against famous writer Perumal Murugan.

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With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Aug 24, 2017 13:36 PM

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