Aadhaar Judgement and Right to Privacy

Aadhaar Judgement and Right to Privacy

Abstract:

The main aim of the research paper to study the evolution of the right to privacy ensured under article 21 of the Constitution of India and to analyze Aadhaar Judgement given by the supreme court and see how the Aadhaar scheme violates the right to privacy under article 21 and to list the exceptions for the same as provided and observed by the courts and also to see how people even after the judgment are misled by the private companies which provide certain services only if Aadhaar number is provided by the customers. The researcher will also look into certain case laws that were considered as landmark judgments to develop the concept of the right to privacy. The researcher will further look into how even disclosing of basic information of a person will lead to violation of the right to privacy. The research paper will also contain a brief analysis of the Right to Be Forgotten. Finally, the researcher will look into the evolution of the Right to privacy with the right to be forgotten and look into case laws relating to the same.

Keywords: article 21, right to privacy, the constitution of India, Aadhaar number, Aadhaar judgment, unique identification number

Introduction:

Article 21 of the Indian Constitution talks about the Right to privacy, the concept of the right to privacy has developed through a series of decisions over past 60 years and the Supreme Court has asserted that Article 21[1] is the heart of Fundamental Rights. The term privacy is considered to be the crucial term in our society which has emerged recently and our society has witnessed this term for the past few years. The word privacy according to Black’s Law Dictionary means “right to be let alone; the right of a person to be free from any unwarranted publicity; the right to live without any unwarranted interference by the public in matters with which the public is not necessarily concerned”[2]. In the recent times, there have been numerous debates on the concept of the right to privacy i.e. whether our Constitution guarantees the right to privacy and its reasonable restrictions, its non-recognition by some courts, and this right has been recognized by the other courts. In 2010 the government of India launched the Aadhaar number scheme which was a unique number given to each citizen. For getting the Aadhaar number citizens had to give some personal information like their resident address and some biometric information which would be stored in the database. The main aim of the Aadhaar scheme was to build the bridge between technology and social welfare. The Aadhaar number was made compulsory to avail a series of essential services including opening and accessing bank accounts, passports, and cell phone services, and so on. Therefore, each time the identity of an individual is required to be verified by the government or private entities and they would get access to the information provided while getting the Aadhaar number.

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Evolution of Right to Privacy in India:

Fundamental rights are the rights given to the citizens as basic human rights and therefore, it is important that the state allows all its citizens to enforce the fundamental rights given to them and also provide them with the proper remedial mechanisms. The Right to privacy has been derived from Article 21 of the constitution which speaks about the protection of life and personal liberty. In the case of Kharak Singh v, State of Uttar Pradesh[3] was the first case where the court held that the right to privacy is a fundamental right of every citizen and is given to the citizen under Article 21 of the constitution. In the case of Govind v. state of Madhya Pradesh[4] the court held that the police cannot regularly follow up on the prisoners that are released from the prison or on bail unless there is expected great harm to the society.

In the case of R. Rajagopal v. State of T.N.[5] Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy observed that the right to privacy is implied in right to life and personal liberty enshrined under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution and it is a “right to be let alone”. It was observed that the citizens have the right to safeguard the privacy of their own, their family, marriage, procreation, motherhood, childbearing, and education among other matters. No one can publish anything regarding the above matters without their consent whether truthful or otherwise or congratulatory or critical and if he does so, he will be violating the right to privacy. However, the court in this case also gave an exception to the above-mentioned rule, i.e. any publication concerning for the public safety and good of the public.

In the case of People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India[6] the court observed and held that telephone tapping under the telegraph act[7] is in violation of article 21 of the constitution as telephone conversations include private facts and information about the partied and held that right to privacy can only be invoked through the procedure established by law as it forms an integral part of the fundamental rights of the constitution.

However, In the case of Mr. X v. Hospital Z[8], the court observed that the right to life is above the right to privacy and the private information of a person can be disclosed in order to protect other’s life, public safety, and public order. Again, in the case of Sharda v. Dharmpal[9], the court observed that the right to privacy is not an absolute right and whenever there is any clash between 2 fundamental rights, the right that protects public order and safety should prevail.

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The Right to privacy took a completely different turn during the Aadhar case[10] and the question before the court was about the fundamental status of the right to privacy as a fundamental right. The case was about the famous scheme by the government of India, the Aadhar card scheme where the government collected all the biomatrix of an individual and his personal information related to his other government benefits, address, etc. the contention of the petitioners in the case was that collection of biomatrix information of an individual is violating the right to privacy of the individuals as it contains all his personal, sensitive information. The information so provided by the citizens were contended to be misused by the government and other private companies. The nine-judge bench of the supreme court, in this case, observed and held that right to privacy is a protected right which is not only granted under article 21 of the constitution but also protected under various other context related to the right to freedom and dignity as guaranteed under part III of the constitution. The court further observed that the Aadhar card scheme did not violate the right to privacy as it was introduced to provide various other benefits to the public like the right to food, right to receive pension, right to livelihood etc. the court justified the reason behind such scheme but also held that a private company cannot force any individual to provide their Aadhar card information for the use of the company and the information provided in the Aadhar card only to be used by the government for the benefit of the people only.

Right to be Forgotten or Right to delist or Right to ensure:

The right to Be Forgotten is also a part of the evolution of the right to privacy in India. This right is related to the online data protection of the citizens which is been shared online for public information. This right also is taken back to the idea of protecting the privacy of an individual and to protect public safety and order. According to this right, an individual can ask or tell any search engine to remove their personal information temporarily or permanently to protect their information from being misused by any other company or person. This right was first observed as a part of the right to privacy in the case of Sri Vasunathan v. Registrar General[11], where the court held that the right of a person to Be Forgotten is a very essential right as to protect an individual’s privacy.

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In the case of Dharmaraj Bhanushankar Dev v. State of Gujarat and Ors[12], the Gujarat high court had a different opinion regarding the Right to Be Forgotten, the court observed and held that mere publication of a judgment by a search engine is not in violation of the right to privacy and the public has right to access the judgments given by the courts.

Conclusion:

By the above observations by the court, it can be concluded that the Right to Privacy has become an integral part of the Fundamental Rights ensured to the citizens of India. It can also be seen as to how the courts have widened the aspect of the right to privacy under Article 21 and as to how every individual is also protected from the data, he provides online through right to be forgotten which he courts lately observed and said it is a part of article 21. The courts have played a major role in the same and has ensured to punish those who infringe the right to privacy of another person without procedure established by law. The courts have also given a certain exceptions for the right to privacy, such as, to maintain public order and safety.

Bibliography:

Books

  • Introduction to the Constitution of India, by Durga Das Basu, 22nd
  • The Constitution of India, by P. Bakshi, 14th

Articles

Websites:

 

[1] INDIA CONST. art. 21.

[2] “Privacy” Black’s Law Dictionary.

[3] 1963 AIR 1295, 1964 SCR (1) 332 (INDIA).

[4] 1975 AIR 1378, 1975 SCR (3) 946 (INDIA).

[5] 1995 AIR 264, 1994 SCC (6) 632 (INDIA).

[6] AIR 1997 SC 568, JT 1997 (1) SC 288 (INDIA).

[7] The Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, No. 13, Acts of Parliament, 1885 (INDIA)

[8] (1998) 8 SCC 296

[9] AIR 2003 SC 3450, 2003 (3) ALT 41 SC, 2003 

[10]Justice K.S. Puttaswamy and Ors. vs. Union of India (UOI) and Ors. (24.08.2017 – SC) : MANU/SC/1044/2017 AIR2017SC4161 (INDIA).

[11]  Anand Byrareddy, Sri Vasunathan v. Registrar Genera 2017l, indiankanoon, https://indiankanoon.org/doc/12577154/.

[12] SCA No. 1854 of 2015

Author: Bhoomika Kumar,
School of Law, Christ (Deemed to be University), 3rd year

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