Indian Jurisprudence in its Constitutional slant has shown repeated developments and also collided with uncourageous oppositions. These developments and conflicts have given a great dimension to Article 21 of Constitution of India. The Supreme Court from its various interpretations in diverse cases has always recognised Article 21 as the heart of Fundamental rights. Article 21 has made its extension towards ‘Life’ and ‘liberty’ of every person. The ‘right to life’ given by this article is considered as a right of paramount importance in the lives of every individual human being and further the right to privacy though not explicitly mentioned in the constitution, aims to ensure and respect the privacy of an individual.
The right to privacy basically gives us the propensity to choose what domains of our life do we want to disclose to the outer world and which ones are meant to be kept to ourselves. Through this right there is no interference by any other individual or even by the public authority. The right to privacy as a Human Right has its roots in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights which recognised it as a right to life in 1998.
Over past 60 years, the inconsistencies through various judgements have created a bifurcated opinion on whether the right to privacy is a fundamental right or not. But the Hon’ble Supreme Court in its latest unanimous 9-judge bench decision has over-ruled its land mark judgements M.P. Sharma vs. Satish Chandra(1954 AIR 300, 1954 SCR 1077) and Kharak Singh vs. State of U.P. and Ors.(1963 AIR 1295, 1964 SCR 1 332) by declaring Right to Privacy as Fundamental Right under constitution. The decision also concludes that privacy is a necessary condition for meaningful exercise of freedom that is guaranteed by our holy constitution. The 9-judge bench headed by former Chief Justice J.S Khehar made a ruling on the highly contentious issue to deal with the batch of petitions challenging the Central Government’s move to make Adhaar cards mandatory for availing the benefits of various social welfare and other government schemes. The central government asserted that through previous landmark judgements and interpretations the right to privacy cannot to be regarded as fundamental right to which the petitioners have argued that while linking Adhaar, the citizen is giving all his/her biometric information which includes his/her finger prints, iris scanning and also his personal information which ironically makes it difficult for him to keep his distinctive characteristics confidential which is a direct infringement of right to life. But the decision taken by the bench basically dealt with the agenda of right to privacy as fundamental right and the question whether the Adhaar card violates the right to privacy is still left as a debatable issue. It is also very pertinent to argue that the identity data base of about 111 crores of 125 crore population without adequate safeguards directly interferes with the fundamental right under Article 21 of Constitution.
Subsequently, the Government has also enacted the Adhaar Card Act, 2016 in the Parliament and by issuing notifications under this act; the Adhaar has been made mandatory to avail the benefits of various schemes and social welfare services. By Government’s aggressive defence of mandating Adhaar, many human right defenders have speculated the steady expansion of the scheme and contemplated it as unnecessary stride by the Government of India.
By triggering this scheme the government has also countered that the right to privacy as an ‘elite for few’ is submissive to the ‘right of the public at large’ in order to lead a dignified life in this developing nation. Government said that the information disclosure does not exist as a compelling state interest as the step taken is for the welfare of the society at large. Defending the pace of “Digital India” as the dream project, the importance of Adhaar in this context has given a back support to this initiative.
Well besides the various contradictions, the evolution of right to privacy has paralleled the development of long-established human jurisprudence. Though the various decisions have been given by the apex court regarding the Right to Privacy, but still a lot of people don’t know about it in our country. But now the time has come when the desirability of the court to interpret the fundamental rights is gaining popularity. In these present times when the importance of right and its awareness is becoming more essential with every day passing, we need protection so that that the functioning of the society can be done in a way which we want without thinking of others about our actions. After all it’s always we who are answerable to ourselves for living our life privately without someone else accessing into it.
-Arvind Singh Dhaliwal