Cong calls ruling major blow to ‘fascist’ forces; BJP says SC affirms govt’s position.
New Delhi: Leaders cutting across party lines hailed the apex court decision to hold privacy as a fundamental right on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters, law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the court has affirmed the government’s position. “The Supreme Court has affirmed what the government had said in Parliament while moving the Aadhaar Bill. Privacy should be a fundamental right subject to reasonable restrictions.”
Rejecting the assertion of the law minister, the Congress termed it as “misguiding the people”. Congress MP and senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing four non-BJP states, in the matter said: “The law minister should read the judgment. His Attorney General opposed that privacy should be a fundamental right. He should check with the AG before misguiding the people.” Mr Sibal added the Narendra Modi-government was “ill- advised” in opposing the demand to declare right to privacy as a fundamental right in the Supreme Court.
Hailing the judgment, Congress president Sonia Gandhi said the Supreme Court verdict on right to privacy heralds a new era for individual rights and human dignity and strikes a blow on “unbridled encroachment and surveillance” by the state and its agencies in the common man’s life.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi tweeted: “Welcome the SC verdict upholding right to privacy as an intrinsic part of an individual’s liberty, freedom and dignity. The SC decision marks a major blow to fascist forces.”
Former finance minister P. Chidambaram also welcomed the judgment and criticised the government’s interpretation of Aadhaar under Article 21. He said the government’s stand on Aadhaar was “inconsistent”. “But Aadhaar can’t become a beyond-all, end-all of all administrative issues,” he said. The fault, he added, was not with the concept, but with the BJP government’s “use and misuse” of Aadhaar as a tool.
While Union minister Arun Jaitley said the Narendra Modi government has always had a clear stand on privacy. He said it is a positive development and there will always be efforts to strengthen the fundamental rights. He added the UPA government had brought Aadhaar without any legal framework, and therefore, the privacy issue went to the apex court.
He made the comments after unveiling the three-year action agenda prepared by the Niti Aayog for the period between 2017-18 to 2019-2020. “The government always had a clear stand on privacy,” he said. He blamed the previous UPA regime by saying that it brought Aadhaar and collected data without any legal backing and therefore the privacy issue went to Supreme Court.
Congress’s media department in-charge Randeep Surjewala said the Supreme Court had stopped the BJP government, which “tried to turn India into a police state”, in its tracks. He described the verdict as the “dawn of a new freedom” and a “decisive defeat” for the BJP government. It was a blow to “the creeping advances of those who want to convert India into a fascist police state”, he said, adding that the “conspiracy has been nipped in the bud”. He called it a “great victory” for liberty and freedom. “The Court rejects Modi government’s attempt to whittle down the right to privacy as a fundamental right,” he said.
Left parties also hailed the judgment of the Supreme Court. CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury said, “We welcome the Supreme Court verdict...This landmark judgment should pave the way to protect, in this world of technology advance dominated by corporates, misuse of private data and infringing upon the privacy of individuals.”
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee also welcomed the Supreme Court’s ruling on right to privacy. “We welcome this verdict by Honourable Supreme Court #RightToPrivacy is a Fundamental Right,” she said in a tweet.
Actor Kamal Haasan also welcomed the decision, saying “these are the moments that make India.” In a tweet, he said there was “nothing vague or amorphous about” the apex court’s verdict on the matter. “People thank the Honourable Judges. These are moments that make India,” he added.
Former law minister Ashwani Kumar said the Court had vindicated “constitutional conscience” and validated yet again its role as “the guardian of our constitutional rights”. “The right to privacy has finally been recognised as part of man’s ‘inviolate personality’ and as a right that is inherent and inalienable to human personality,” Mr Kumar said.
In a landmark decision that will affect the lives of all Indians, the SC unanimously declared the right to privacy a fundamental right under the Constitution.
What each SC Judge said
Bench comprised 9 judges. Justice Chandrachud delivered the judgment on behalf of CJI Khehar, Justices Agrawal, Abdul Nazeer and himself. Justices Chelameswar, Bobde, A.M. Sapre, Rohinton Nariman and Sanjay Kishan Kaul gave separate but concurring judgments with additional reasons...
Liberty and freedom are values that are intrinsic to our constitutional order. But, they also have an instrumental value in creating conditions in which socio-economic rights can be achieved. India has no iron curtain. Our society prospers in the shadow of its drapes that let it sunshine and reflect a multitude of hues based on language, religion, culture and ideologies. We also need to emphasise on the lack of substance in the submission that privacy is a privilege for the few. Every individual in society, irrespective of social class or economic status, is entitled to intimacy and autonomy, which privacy protects.
Privacy is integral to the several fundamental rights recognised by Part III of the Constitution and must be regarded as a fundamental right itself. Privacy is always integrated with personal liberty. It is clear the right of privacy is an inalienable human right that inheres in every person by virtue of the fact that he or she is a human being. The inalienable fundamental right to privacy resides in Article 21 and other fundamental freedoms contained in Part III of the Constitution of India. M.P. Sharma and the majority in Kharak Singh to the extent that they indicate to the contrary, stand overruled.
Article 21 is wide enough to take in not only the various freedoms enumerated in Article 19(1) but also many others that are not enumerated. Aspirations and goals depend upon the history of that society. History invariably is a product of various forces emanating from religion, incidents of Jalianwala Bagh and the like. Man is not a creature of the state. Life and liberty are not granted by the Constitution. Constitution only stipulates the limitations on the power of the state to interfere with our life and liberty.
The right to privacy may have different aspects starting from ‘the right to be let alone’ in the famous article by Samuel Warren and Louis D. Brandeis. One such aspect is an individual’s right to control dissemination of his personal information. Privacy is also the key to the freedom of thought. A person has a right to think. The thoughts are sometimes translated into speech but confined to the person to whom it is made. For example, one may want to criticise someone but not share the criticism with the world.
Privacy has the nature of being both a common law right as well as a fundamental right under Article 21. Its content, in both forms, is identical. All that differs is the incidence of burden and the forum for enforcement for each form. Privacy is a basic pre-requisite for exercising the liberty and the freedom to perform that activity. The inability to create a condition of selective seclusion virtually denies an individual the freedom to exercise that particular liberty or freedom necessary to do that activity.
One can't conceive an individual enjoying meaningful life with dignity without such right to privacy. Indeed, it is one of those cherished rights, which every civilised society
governed by rule of law always recognises in every human being and is under obligation to recognise such rights in order to maintain and preserve the dignity of an individual.