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[op-ed snap] A sterling judgement on right to privacy

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Mains Paper 2: Governance | Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

Q.) “The Supreme Court has reaffirmed the primacy of the individual and served as a check on legislative and executive power.” Comment in the light of the recent SC judgment on “Right to Privacy.”

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: Important observations in the article.



  1. The article talks about the recent SC Judgment on Right to Privacy
  2. The privacy judgement reaffirms the strength of the Constitutional protections given to fundamental rights

Why was Government’s stance different from the Judgement?

  1. The government’s stance that there is no fundamental right to privacy is based on the precedent of two Supreme Court judgements
    (1) M.P. Sharma vs Satish Chandra, 1954 and
    (2) Kharak Singh vs State of Uttar Pradesh in 1962
  2. And these judgments noted that the Constitution did not “specifically protect” the right to privacy

Article 14, Article 21 and opinion of the SC judge

  1. Article 14, which guarantees equality before the law, ensures that state laws cannot be arbitrary in nature or application
  2. They must be reasonable
  3. Article 21 protects life and personal liberty and the petitioners in the current case have argued that it implicitly contains the right to privacy as well
  4. Those protections and rights can be constrained by “procedure established by law”
  5. Without the reasonableness guaranteed by Article 14 to test that procedure
  6. But justice D.Y. Chandrachud notes in his opinion, this doctrine was set aside by an 11-judge bench in 1970’s Rustom Cavasjee Cooper vs Union of India judgement
  7. And 1978’s judgement in Maneka Gandhi vs Union of India by a seven-judge bench established the new doctrine that the distinct fundamental rights are not carved out from each other but overlap

Far-Ranging implications of the judgement

  1. The litigation against the Aadhaar programme is still pending in a separate case, but this judgement is bound to bolster it
  2. There are far-ranging implications for digital business models, as well—and more broadly, for the knowledge economy
  3. According to to some experts, the SC observations on digital technology front don’t quite take the rapidly evolving nature of the digital economy into account

Other noted outcomes of the judgement

  1. The judgement cites women’s abortion rights and the execrable Section 377 to note that sexual orientation
  2. The gender identity and women’s bodily autonomy are bound with human dignity and the right to privacy
  3. This has profound implications for women and the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community

Privacy ruling to have bearing on beef ban cases: SC

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Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: It is important to note the effects of ‘Right to Privacy judgement’ on various issues.


Observation of the SC on Beef Ban

  1. A two-judge bench of the SC has observed that the privacy ruling will have a bearing on the Maharashtra beef ban case pending before it
  2. This observation came after the yesterday’s judgment of the SC which ruled that right to privacy is a fundamental right

The State of Gujarat vs Mirzapur Moti Kureshi Kassab case, 2004

  1. Petitioners also sought a review of the Supreme Court’s 2004 judgment in this case in which a seven-judge bench had imposed a total ban on slaughter of bovines even if unproductive
  2. The court adjourned the matter for two weeks
  3. At the next hearing, it will decide on the plea for a larger bench to take up the matter

[op-ed snap] Right to Privacy: We, the private people


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

Q.) “With the landmark Right to Privacy verdict, SC expands the individual’s fundamental rights, etches firmer boundaries for the state.” How will this expansion of Fundamental Rights help normal citizens of India?

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Particulars of the judgement, article 21, article 14

Mains level: It was a much awaited judgement. It will have a great impact on Government policies.



  1. The article talks about the recent SC judgement on the Right to Privacy

What is the Ruling?

  1. The SC’s rules that the “Right to Privacy is an integral part of the Right to Life and Personal Liberty guaranteed in Article 21 of the Constitution”
  2. From now on, ‘Right to Privacy’ is a fundamental right

Observations of the Court

  1. According to the court, Privacy enables each individual to take crucial decisions which find expression in the human personality
  2. It enables individuals to preserve their beliefs, thoughts, expressions, ideas, ideologies, preferences and choices against societal demands of homogeneity
  3. Privacy is an intrinsic recognition of heterogeneity, of the right of the individual to be different and to stand against the tide of conformity in creating a zone of solitude

Government’s argument in court

  1. Government draws on two Supreme Court verdicts: M.P. Sharma vs Satish Chandra, 1954 and Kharak Singh vs State of UP, 1962
  2. The attorney general had argued that the Constitution does not guarantee a right to privacy

Lesson for future Juries

  1. Democratic societies require their judiciary to self-correct, as done in this judgement
  2. The spirit of self-correction and commitment to human dignity are also behind the court’s decision to set aside its 2013 verdict that resuscitated Section 377

The way forward

  1. The court does impose reasonable restrictions on the Right to Privacy
  2. A democracy can survive when citizens have an undiluted assurance that the rule of law will protect their rights and liberties
  3. Government and Judiciary should take care of it in future as well

Whatsapp told by HC to delete from its servers info of users who opt out

  1. The Delhi High Court directed instant messaging service Whatsapp to delete from its server all information of users who chose to opt out of its services after September 25
  2. September 25 is the deadline after which Whatsapp said it would be sharing information of users with social media giant Facebook
  3. Background: A petition was filed in the HC saying that Whatsapp’s new policy was an infringement of users’ privacy
  4. Whatsapp was not giving any option to its users but to share the information with Facebook
  5. The bench had expressed concern over what happens to information of users who opt out of Whatsapp services
  6. Regulation? The court has also directed the Union and TRAI to see if they can bring Internet based messaging services like Whatsapp under a regulatory framework

Putin signs controversial Big Brother law

  1. News: Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a package of controversial anti-terror amendments dubbed ‘Big Brother’ measures by critics
  2. Aim: The law boosts the government’s surveillance powers for the security services, by requiring the telecom operators to store key data and to provide it to security forces
  3. Requires telecom operators to store users’ calls, messages, photographs and videos for 6 months, as well as metadata for up to 3 years
  4. Impact: May cost internet companies billions
  5. Response: Snowden called the decision a ‘dark day for Russia’

Right to privacy concerns: Aadhaar holder can block his biometric info

First time, UIDAI has disclosed that a mechanism exists under which a card holder can choose to block the biometric information linked to his Aadhaar card.

  1. An Aadhaar card holder can block his card along with his demographic and biometric information if he wants to opt out of the UID system.
  2. Government tried to convince the Supreme Court that Aadhaar is “purely voluntary”.
  3. If a person wants to block the information about him contained in the biometric database, he can do it voluntarily and nobody will be able to unblock it, till he wants.

Absolute privacy is a futile notion, says A-G

The A-G argued that right to privacy of an Indian citizen has become a futile notion in an era when Facebook can track every detail, thought and movement through its WhatsApp software application.

  1. The govt. is going at great lengths to convince that Aadhaar is a voluntary authentication device.
  2. It is not a snooping device or meant to be an instrument of control of the likes used by authoritarian States to keep tabs on citizens.
  3. He said the Aadhaar was the most widely held identity card in the country at 92 crore compared to 7 crore PAN card, 5 crore having passports and 12-15 crore people with ration cards.

SC to re-look right to privacy, courtesy Aadhaar

New bench will hear the fundamental issue whether the state is in the right by creating a situation by which a citizen is enticed to voluntarily part with his privacy rights, for social benefit schemes

  1. The new Constitution Bench will sit for the first time on October 14.
  2. Over 60 years after an eight-judge Bench declared that Right to Privacy is not a fundamental right.
  3. Previous order by the Supreme Court on August 11, restricting the use of Aadhaar to PDS and LPG schemes.
  4. The Supreme Court decided to set up another Constitution Bench to re-look the question in that, Aadhaar card scheme is an invasion into citizen’s privacy.
  5. In 1954, the SC Bench by Chief Justice M.C. Mahajan held that Right to Privacy is not recognised by the Constitution makers as a fundamental right, and so no need to strain to make it one.

A basic right is in danger

  1. The Attorney General’s argument questioning right to privacy is against the interests of the people, and also seems to be politically motivated.
  2. India has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which unequivocally supports the existence of the right to privacy.
  3. It is inconsistent for the govt. to argue that US has violated Indian citizen’s right to privacy and denying the same right domestically.

India’s DNA profiling bill may become one of the world’s most intrusive laws

Among all the forensic tools available to criminal investigators, DNA analysis is the only one that has consistently produced reliable results.


  1. Now Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, wants to ensure that the technique be used more widely to convict criminals in the country.
  2. Is it going to be one of the most intrusive bills to be put in motion?


The bill proposes creation of a national DNA data bank, without requisite safeguards for privacy, and opens the information to everything from civic disputes to compilation of statistics.


Some pertinent questions – 

  1. Is DNA evidence infallible?
  2. Can the DNA profiling board protect our genetic information? do we have adequate safeguards against cyber attacks?

DNA profiling Bill triggers debate

DNA Bill could result in large scale violation of human rights.


  1. DNA profiling is a forensic technique used to identify individuals by characteristics of their DNA.
  2. One sample of a person’s DNA is maintained by forensic authorities.
  3. That sample can be matched to DNA obtained from a crime scene to establish whether that person was present or not.
  4. “Does the Bill mean to say that once a criminal always a criminal?” asked Thushar Nirmal Sarathy, an advocate and human rights activist from Trivandrum, Kerala.

Where’s right to privacy? You decide, Govt tells SC

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi asked the court to constitute a nine-judge bench to decide what he said is a disputed question of law and constitutional provisions.




  1. Is right to privacy a fundamental right? The NDA government raised this question in the Supreme Court Wednesday, and went on to state that the Constitution does not assign right to privacy that status.
  2. What’s going on here?
  3. NDA is defending the validity of the Aadhaar card since a batch of petitions have contended that collection and sharing of biometric information was a breach of their “fundamental” right to privacy.
  4. It must first be settled authoritatively whether privacy is a fundamental right.

Privacy not a right, Aadhaar legit: Centre

Quoting a SC judgement of 1962 in Kharak Singh case, Centre replied that the right to privacy was a ‘vague concept’ and not a ‘guaranteed right’ under the Constitution.


However, the petitioner pointed to several decisions of the SC subsequent to the Kharak Singh case, including the Maneka Gandhi case, in which the court gave a very wide ambit to the right of personal liberty.

Privacy is at the core of our vital needs. Privacy leads to fulfilment of our goals, enrichment of ourselves and our growth. The need for privacy distinguishes humans from other animals. It is a fundamental right,” Mr. Divan said even as Justice Chelameswar suggested that since there was a “divergence of opinion” the matter may be referred to a larger bench.

:( We are working on most probable questions. Do check back this section.

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