Skip to main content

Govt of India: Right to privacy is too amorphous in developing countries, overrides food, clothing, shelter

KK Venugopal
By Our Representative
The Government of India has said that privacy is not a fundamental right, amd that it is too vague to qualify it as such. Appearing for the Centre in the Supreme Court, Attorney-General KK Venugopal argued that there can be "no independent right called right to privacy, and that privacy is only a sociological notion, not a legal concept."
If privacy were declared a fundamental right, Venugopal said, then it can be a qualified right. He asked the nine-judge constitution bench, hearing the tangled issue on whether aadhaar was a violation of the right to privacy,  that only some aspects of privacy could be considered fundamental, not all, and it is a limited fundamental right that can be taken away in legitimate state interest.
Elucidating, Venugopal sought to argue that in developing countries something as amorphous as privacy couldn't be a fundamental right, that other fundamental rights such as food, clothing, shelter etc. override the right to privacy. Observers wanting aadhaar to be linked with the right considered the argument bizarre.
The bench resumed hearings in the Supreme Court to settle the question on whether there exists a fundamental right to privacy in India before looking into the aadhaar issue. The bench, said Justice Nariman, “will decide the issue once and for all for conceptual clarity for the nation.”
In a development considered important, several non-BJP ruled states decided to join the issue on the side of the petitioners and argued that there does exist a fundamental right to privacy in India.
Kapil Sibal
Last week, a galaxy of lawyers argued for privacy as a fundamental right. This included Soli Sorabjee, Anand Grover, Arvind Datar, Meenakshi Arora, S Poovayya. Senior advocate Shyam Divan who argued in the PAN-Aadhaar case that Aadhaar was like an “electronic leash” on the people also appeared for the petitioners.
"The government’s contention, riding on the back of the Kharak Singh judgement, which had raised the question on privacy as a fundamental right, did not seem to convince the bench", claimed civil society group Rethink Aadhaar, campaigning for right to privacy as a fundamental right.
"There have been 40 judgements since then reiterating the right to privacy", it added.
Rethink Aadhaar, in a statement, said, "In fact, the government has itself, in its earlier submissions in the aadhaar matter, not contested privacy as a fundamental right. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said so on the floor of the House. Further, in the WhatsApp case, the government has this week argued for the right to privacy."
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who appeared for the states of Karnataka, West Bengal, Punjab, and the Union Territory of Pondicherry, said that privacy was indeed a fundamental right, but added, it was not absolute, and the court would have to strike a balance between rights and restrictions.
Sibal's contention that the contours of privacy would have to considered afresh made Chief Justice of India JS Khehar telling him that the concern at present was only whether privacy was a fundamental right.
Responding to Justice J Chelameshwar’s question on the location of a potential fundamental right to privacy, Sibal suggested it was Article 21, but also maintained that it is an inalienable natural right that inheres in all human beings.
Counsel for the state of Himachal Pradesh, JS Atri, made a brief submission supporting privacy as a fundamental right and being part of personal liberty flowing from the Preamble to the Indian Constitution. The government is likely to continue its submission.

Comments

Uma said…
Aadhar is necessary for subsidies and other monetary benefits to reach the correct recipients. However, if the government announces that only those who are eligible for the benefits then many people will go for Aadhar and claim benefits under false pretexts. So the only solution as I see it, repugnant though it is, is to insist on Aadhar for everyone. As a corollary, those who avoid paying their taxes are drawn into the net--which is a good thing in an indirect way.

So while I regard Aadhar as an invasion of privacy, it seems to be a necessary evil.

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines massively destroyed by Brahmanical rulers in "pre-Islamic" era: Historian DN Jha's survey

By Our Representative
Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book, "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Contempt of court? UP CM taking 'personal vendetta' against Dr Kafeel Khan: Activists

Counterview Desk
Demanding that the Uttar Pradesh government immediately release well-known paediatrician Dr Kafeel Khan, a group of more than 100 academicians, activists, researchers, doctors and lawyers have said in an open letter that he is being “targeted at the behest of the chief minister”, wondering, “When is an act of challenging the government a threat under the National Security Act (NSA)?”

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam*
RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

ASI has 'no funds' to protect five centuries old Goa church, a World Heritage Site

Counterview Desk
The century-old All-India Catholic Union (AICU), the largest Laity movement in Asia, has blamed the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) for neglecting the historic Bom Jesu church by keeping its ceilings  open to the vagaries weather, with no steps  taken to protect the five century old monument from damage on account of impending rains on the lame excuse that there are "no funds". In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, AICU simultaneously asks the Government of India to devise a "comprehensive" national social security safety net, universal health Insurance and medical Infrastructure so that the “calamity” that has befalenl millions of migrant labour and jobless rural and urban poor in “the Covid pandemic-driven lockdown is “never repeated.”

Withdraw sedition charges against three young women activists: 1100 feminists

Counterview Desk
About 1,100 feminists from all over India – organisations and individuals across religion, class, caste, ethnicity, ability, sexuality and genders – have issued a solidarity statement condemning what they have called “the targeted crackdown on Muslims and women activists in Delhi”, who were at the forefront of protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Register of Citizens (NRC) and National Population Register (NPR).

Will Govt of India, ICMR end 'perverse' practice of extracting profits from ill-health?

By Asmita Verma, Surabhi Agarwal, Bobby Ramakant*
The Epidemics Act, 1897 gives the central and state governments authority to impose any regulations which may be necessary to contain the outbreak of a disease. Some state governments such as Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhatisgarh have already used this power to bring private healthcare facilities in their state under government control.

Tablighis or Namaste Trump? Rupani must 'clarify' on origin of Covid-19 in Gujarat

By Mujahid Nafees* In his video communication on April 24, 2020, chief minister Vijay Rupani informed us that in the month of March the Gujarat government had quarantined 6,000 people returning from abroad in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19 pandemic. He further asserted that the spread of Covid-19 was caused by the tablighis returning from Nizamuddin in Delhi. His statements were widely publicized and given front page coverage by some local dailies.

Coping with Covid-19? Options before small, marginal farmers of rainfed regions

By Biswanath Sinha, Kuntal Mukherjee*
The global crisis due to Covid-19 has hit after reaching in western Europe. India’s response to curtail the spread of the disease was quite decisive. It announced a Janata curfew on the March 22, followed by a complete national lockdown from the midnight of March 24.

'Violation' of migrant workers' human rights: Legal notice to IIM-A director, govt babus

By Our Representative
Taking strong exception to the police action against protesting migrant workers off the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A) on May 18, senior Gujarat High Court advocate Anandvardhan Yagnik, in a legal notice to the IIM-A director "on their behalf" has said that the workers had only been seeking to to go back to their home states, Jharkhand and West Bengal, for the last more than 20 days because they were not paid their “earned wages because of the lockdown.”