Supreme Court is revisiting the question of absolute privacy, after 55 years of its judgment holding right to privacy as not a basic right for the citizens, in petitions challenging the Aadhar scheme. The apex court held on Wednesday that it is not an absolute right. They said that it is not necessary for data protection and right to privacy to co-exist.
The constitution bench was of the opinion that defining privacy will be more disastrous than being advantageous as privacy is vague and includes everything. Justice DY Chandrachud observed that co-habiting with his wife is his privacy but not sending children to school does not come under right to privacy as it comes under right to education law.
The petitioners contended that right to privacy is a part of the constitution embedded in right to dignity and liberty. This contention was supported by a statement given by the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in Parliament in March accepting right to privacy as a fundamental right. He stated that privacy is part of individual liberty and no person shall be deprived of privacy without due process of law. Gopal Subramanium, representing the petitioner, argued that right to life and liberty are pre-existing natural rights.
The main contention in the petition is that data including iris scan and fingerprints taken for the purpose of Aadhaar by the state is in violation of citizens’ right to privacy.
The defendants argue that right to privacy is not mentioned in the constitution and thus, does not form a part of right to life.
Supreme Court has expanded the right to life and has held in the past that it includes right to clean air and even sleep. If the court rules against right the privacy, we will be back to square one and all the petitions relating to Aadhaar scheme will be returned to the original three-judge and five-judge bench.