Right to Privacy, triple talaq rulings: 2 landmark verdicts in 3 days that reaffirmed majesty of Judiciary, Constitution

In the last three days, the Supreme Court has delivered two landmark  judgments which will have long-term ramifications on the people and establish the majesty of the judiciary. The judgments also reflect a changing view of the apex court on what Fundamental Rights are.

In Thursday's ruling, a nine-judge Supreme Court bench ruled that privacy is a Fundamental Right, thus dwarfing the attempts of the Union government to undermine it. The verdict will prevent or at least force the NDA government at the Centre to reassess their Aadhaar scheme.

Representational image. AFP

Representational image. AFP

The Supreme Court verdict has thus upheld the supremacy of not just the Judiciary but also the Constitution.

The judgment, as noted advocate Indira Jaising writes, puts the brakes on any majoritarian government from throwing numbers in support of an argument. This judgment throws back at governments the Constitution, she wrote.

Privacy is now protected under the Right to Life and Personal Liberty guaranteed in Article 21 of the Constitution after the Thursday ruling. It is bound to have a bearing on 24 other cases challenging the validity of the Aadhaar scheme on the grounds of it violating the Right to Privacy.

It has also forced the Narendra Modi government to acknowledge, though unwillingly, that privacy is not just a common-law right but a Fundamental Right of the citizens. Any common man will now be able to demand protection for his personal data, including his biometrics.

The judgment was limited to the issue of Right to Privacy and the question whether Aadhaar violates Right to Privacy will be dealt with later.

The court has also made it clear that it is the government's duty to protect this right just like other Fundamental Rights.

While the verdict has been hailed by all Opposition parties, including Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, the only response from the government came from Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Arun Jaitley hours after the judgment was announced.

Jaitley said that the government's stand has been clear on the issue from the start. He said that it is a positive development and there will always be efforts to strengthen the Fundamental Rights. He attacked the UPA government for bringing Aadhaar without any legal framework. Similarly, Prasad also attacked the Congress for accusing the government of curbing individual rights and said the Opposition party had not enacted any legislation regarding getting information under the Aadhaar framework.

While this particular verdict might be considered a 'setback' for the government which has failed to procure much positive reaction from the cabinet ministers, the ruling in the triple talaq case on Tuesday was hailed as 'historic' by many.

A five-judge bench of the Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down the practice of talaq-e-biddat or instant triple talaq by declaring it ‘unconstitutional’ and 'manifestly arbitary'. Women’s movement across the country lauded the ruling and hailed it as a positive step for the rights of women.

The apex court stated that under the practice of triple talaq, women are subjected to divorce in one go without any legal intervention.

Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah, Jaitley and Prasad hailed the verdict and said that it would grant equality to Muslim women.

Jaitley called the judgment as "progressive" and said efforts should be made to rectify "aberrations" in personal laws that infringe on constitutional guarantees. Prasad said the decision was an indication of an emerging new India. Shah hailed the ruling as "historic" and said it was a victory for Muslim women and their right to live with dignity.

However, despite the ubiquitous euphoria, the verdict has failed to alter gender dynamics.

This is because talaq-e-sunnat still exists, and therefore, Muslim men still hold the right to pronounce divorce against their wives without resorting to legal action.

Nevertheless, government, women rights activists and political parties lauded the apex court for the historic judgment in the triple talaq case. The All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) said the court’s order underlined that a community’s personal laws cannot be interfered with. A religious organisation representing Muslim clerics said the verdict was against Sharia.

The last three days have been particularly important for the rights of the common people. While Tuesday began with an acknowledgement of the rights of Muslim women, the Supreme Court on Thursday granted privacy to the citizens and deemed it a Fundamental Right protected by the Constitution. Both these verdicts have been hailed as a win for the common man, thus, reaffirming the stature of the judiciary.

Updated Date: Aug 25, 2017 18:47 PM

Also See