RIGHT TO INFORMATION IN CONFORMITY WITH RIGHT TO PRIVACY

RIGHT TO INFORMATION IN CONFORMITY WITH RIGHT TO PRIVACY

   AUTHOR: R.REBECCA VASANTHINI PERCY
       B.COM L.L.B (HONS), III YEAR
    SCHOOL OF EXCELLENCE IN LAW
           
RIGHT TO INFORMATION IN CONFORMITY WITH RIGHT TO PRIVACY
This paper focusses on the postulation of  RTI Act in India along with various criticisms on the RTI Act, right to privacy concept and the conflict arising between these two notions. The two concepts of right to privacy and information are the paramount human rights in the modern information society. These two rights supplement each other in holding governments liable to individuals, but there is a potential altercation between these rights when there is an ultimatum for access to personal information held by government bodies. Laws provide a fundamental right for any person to ingress information held by government bodies. At the same time, right to privacy laws vouchsafe individuals a fundamental right to influence the collection of, access to, and use of personal information about them that is held by governments and private bodies.
Privacy and RTI are often portrayed as “two sides of the same coin”. Dr. Manmohan Singh propounded that, “there is a fine parity required to be maintained between the right to information and the right to privacy, which stems out of the fundamental right to life and liberty. The citizen’s right to know should definitely be circumscribed if divulgence of information encroaches upon someone’s personal privacy”.
Keywords : government, privacy, information, fundamental right, liberty.
INTRODUCTION:
Right to information caters a fundamental right upon the citizens so that it gives them a legal right to ingress the information held by government bodies or instrumentalities of the government. Simultaneously, Right to privacy allows the individuals to have authority and observance of the personal information about them that is held by the government and private bodies for instance Aadhar card or bank details. Right to Information and Right to privacy are complementary and supplementary to each other. They are the “two sides of the same coin”. Right to information is a “Sine quo non” of democratic polity which means that right to information cannot exist without a democratic construction. Right to privacy is not explicitly enumerated as a fundamental right under Part III of the Constitution. But, the Honourable Supreme Court has developed the law as to privacy by spelling it out from ‘Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression’ in article 19(1) (a) and within the ambit of ‘Right to Life’ under Article 21 of the Constitution. The Supreme Court has said, “Privacy is the State of being free from intrusion or disturbance in one’s private life of affairs”.

RIGHT TO INFORMATION:
The right of access to information held by government bodies (RTI) provides that individuals have a basic human right to clamour information held by government bodies. It derives from the right of freedom of expression to “seek and receive information,”[1] and is recognized worldwide as a human right.[2]
The collection of information by governments is done on behalf of its citizens, and the public is only truly able to lend a hand in the democratic process when it has information about the activities and policies of the government.[3] The RTI is also an important tool for countering abuses, mismanagement, and payola and for enforcing essential economic and social rights.

SUPREME COURTS VIEW OVER RIGHT TO INFORMATION:
The right to information is a fundamental right flowing from Art. 19(1)(a) of the Constitution is now a well-settled theorem. Over the years, the Supreme Court has consistently ruled in favour of the citizen’s right to know. The development of the right to information as a part of the Constitutional Law of the country started with petitions of the press to the Supreme Court for enforcement of certain logistical entanglement of the right to freedom of speech and expression such as challenging governmental orders for control of newsprint, bans on distribution of papers, etc. It was through these cases that the concept of the public’s right to know developed.
The landmark case in freedom of the press in India was Bennett Coleman and Co. v. Union of India,[4] the right to information was held to be included within the right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Art. 19 (1) (a).
In Indira Gandhi v. Raj Narain[5], the Court explicitly stated that it is not in the interest of the public to ‘cover with a mantilla of secrecy the common routine business – the responsibility of officials to explain and to justify their acts is the chief safeguard against tyranny and corruption.’
In SP Gupta v. Union of India[6] , the right of the people to know about every public act, and the details of every public transaction undertaken by public functionaries was described.
In People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union Of India[7]the court held that discovery to public scrutiny is one of the known means for getting clean and less polluted persons to govern the country.
This principle was even more clearly enunciated in a later case in Indian
Express Newspapers (Bombay) Pvt. Ltd. vs India[8]
where the court remarked, “The basic purpose of freedom of speech and expression is that all members should be able to form their beliefs and communicate them freely to others. In sum, the fundamental principle involved here is the people’s right to know.”

RIGHT TO PRIVACY:
The quest of privacy is an inherent snappy of all human beings. As a matter of fact it is a natural need of an individual to establish individual boundaries with almost perfect solitude. The concept of privacy in its broad sweep covers a number of prospects like non-disclosure of information, sexual affairs, business secrets and non observance by others. Dr. Winfield opines that violation of privacy is the unauthorized interference with another’s seclusion of himself, his family or his property from the public gaze.[9]

JUDICIAL VIEW ON RIGHT TO PRIVACY:
The Indian Constitution did not guarantee the Right to Privacy as a fundamental right earlier. In our country the sole-credit goes to the judiciary for recognizing the abstraction of privacy because neither the Constitution nor any other statute in our country defined this concept.
Allahabad high Court in Nihal chand v. Bhawan Deit took first step when it recognized an independent existence of the right to privacy as emerging from the customs and traditions of the people besides being a statutory right. It observed :’the right to privacy based on social custom….is different from a right to privacy based on natural modesty and human morality, the latter is not confined to any class, creed, colour or race and it is a birth right of any human being and is sacred and should be observed. The right should not be exercised in an oppressive way’.
Then M.P. Sharma v. Satish Chandrawas[10] the first case before the Supreme Court wherein it had an opportunity of considering the constitutional status of the right to privacy in the context of state power of search and seizer, but a very narrow view of constitutional provisions was taken in this case. Unfortunately the opportunity was missed and the right to privacy could not be put into the public law.

In R. Rajagopal v. State of T.N[11] .popularly known as “Autoshanker case” the Supreme Court has expressly held the “right to privacy” or the right to be let alone is guaranteed by Art. 21 of the constitution. A citizen has a right to safeguard the privacy of his own ,his family, marriage, procreation, motherhood, childbearing and education among other matters. No one can publish anything concerning the above matters without his consent whether truthful or otherwise and whether laudatory or critical. If he does so, he would be violating the right of the person concerned and would be liable in an action for damages. However, position may be differed if he voluntarily puts into controversy or voluntarily invites or raised a controversy.
Ram Jethmalani and Ors.V. Union of India[12],Supreme Court held: “Right to privacy is an integral part of right to life, a cherished constitutional value and it is important that human beings be allowed domains of freedom that are free of public scrutiny unless they act in an unlawful manner.

BALANCE BETWEEN RIGHT TO INFORMATION AND PRIVACY:
Dr Manmohan Singh opined “There is a fine balance required to be maintained between the right to information and the right to privacy, which stems out of the fundamental right to life and liberty. The citizens’ right to know should definitely be circumscribed if disclosure of information encroaches upon someone’s personal privacy.[13]
In many countries, like United States and United Kingdom, RTI laws are a primary tool used by privacy advocates to identify abuses and to campaign effectively against them. Hence using RTI to promote Privacy.

AREA OF CONFLICT:
Third party information‐ A public authority should not straightway reject a written request for information simply on the ground that it relates to a third party. The public authority if satisfied may obtain consent from the third party for disclosure. “Right to life” includes right to lead a healthy life as to enjoy all the faculties of the human body in their prime condition, and the disclosure that the prospective spouse is a HIV(+) can in no way be said to violate the rule of confidentiality or the right to privacy.
Clash of two Fundamental rights– namely right to privacy and the right to live a healthy life ‐the right which would advance the public interest would alone be enforced.

CONCLUSION:
Both the rights are intended to help the individual in making government accountable and transparent. There is no simple solution to balancing the two rights, but most issues can be mitigated through the enactment of clear definitions in legislation, guidelines, techniques, and oversight systems.






[1] See the Universal Declaration of Human Rights(UDHR),art.19

[2]For a detailed overview of international standards on RTI, see Mendel (2008)and Banisar (2006)
[3]See, for example ,ACHPR (2002);and the Joint Declaration of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, and the OAS Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, November 26,1999.
[4] AIR 1973 SC 106
[5] AIR 1975 SC 2299
[6] AIR 1982 SC 149
[7] 2003(001) SCW 2353 SC
[8] (1985) 1 SCC 641
[9] Seventh Edn 1963 at page 726
[10] 1954 AIR 300
[11] (1994) 6 SCC 632
[12] (2011)
[13]Times of India , dated Oct 12 , 2012, “RTI should be circumscribed if it encroaches on privacy”
READ  India’s revocation of MFN status for Pakistan: A progressive exhibition of economic diplomacy.

Leave a Comment