SC verdict on Right to Privacy: Excerpts from judgment elaborate on need for individual freedoms
On 24 August, the Supreme Court declared Right to Privacy to be a fundamental right. However, the verdict is presently just a theory, and numerous questions still remain unanswered. One of them being: what of personal data?
On 24 August, the Supreme Court declared Right to Privacy to be a Fundamental Right. In its verdict, the Supreme Court bench used strong language to condemn the collection of personal data. Some of the critical instances of the direct text are as follows:
"Knowledge about a person gives a power over that person. The personal data collected is capable of effecting representations, influencing decision making processes and shaping behaviour. It can be even used as a tool to exercise control over us like the ‘big brother’ State exercised. This can have a stultifying effect on the expression of dissent and difference of opinion, which no democracy can afford."
"George Orwell created a fictional State in ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four.’ Today, it can be a reality. The technological development today can enable not only the state, but also big corporations and private entities to be the ‘big brother’."
"The Constitution thus lives for the people. Its deepest wishes are that civil society flourishes and there is a peaceful social order. Any change in the sentiments of the people are recognised by it. It seeks to incorporate within its fold all possible civil rights which existed in the past, and those rights which may appear on the horizon of the future. It endears. The Constitution was never intended to serve as a means to stifle the protection of the valuable rights of its citizens. Its aim and purpose was completely the opposite."
"To live is to live with dignity. The draftsmen of the Constitution defined their vision of the society in which constitutional values would be attained by emphasising, among other freedoms, liberty and dignity. So fundamental is dignity that it permeates the core of the rights guaranteed to the individual by Part III. Dignity is the core which unites the fundamental rights because the fundamental rights seek to achieve for each individual the dignity of existence. Privacy with its attendant values assures dignity to the individual, and it is only when life can be enjoyed with dignity can liberty be of true substance. Privacy ensures the fulfilment of dignity and is a core value which the protection of life and liberty is intended to achieve."
"Sexual orientation is an essential attribute of privacy. Discrimination against an individual on the basis of sexual orientation is deeply offensive to the dignity and self-worth of the individual. Equality demands that the sexual orientation of each individual in society must be protected on an even platform. The right to privacy and the protection of sexual orientation lie at the core of the fundamental rights guaranteed by Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution."
With noted lawyer Prashant Bhushan saying that all Fundamental Rights come with restrictions, only time will tell whether Indians can enjoy complete privacy, including freedom from giving out personal details to avail government services.
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