The creative freedom of the judiciary in our country can be very well understood through Article 21 of Indian constitution which categorically bestows the “right to life” to every person in India. Apart from the literal definition of the Article, there are certain additional interpretations that have been attached to it through judicial precedents. Currently, an ongoing national debate is upon attaching yet another auxiliary meaning to the fundamental right to life- Right to Privacy.
Government's move to make Aadhaar mandatory for various public welfare schemes created the locus for litigators to question the right to privacy of individuals and how far is it safe to link Aadhaar to other documents. The courts have contended that privacy is a common law right and not a fundamental right recognised by the Constitution.
Article 21 reads:
“No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to a procedure established by law.”
The right to life enshrined in Article 21 has been liberally interpreted so as to mean something more than mere existence. The right to privacy is considered a ‘penumbral right’ under the Constitution. However, in the immediate case, petitioners have raised concerns over data security and data breach and the attached threat of one's private details being available in the public domain. The question has been often raised before the court, this time the situation demands a strict and conclusive clarity on the constitutionality of right to privacy.
The matter is currently sub-Judice in the Supreme Court of India. As of today, the Court has reserved the judgment. However, the bench has given some insights on the law that is approaching the Indian legal system-
To establish the right to privacy, the issue will be scrutinised on the criteria of intimate, private and public. The first zone could be an intimate zone of privacy concerning marriage, sexuality, relations with family and the law should frown upon any intrusion. Intrusion from the state shall only be permissible in extraordinary circumstances guarded by stringent norms.
The second zone would be the private zone, wherein the information of an individual will be partly shared with the state. Credit card, social networking platforms, income tax declarations, etc., fall under this category.
The third is the public zone where privacy protection requires minimal regulation. Here, the personal data shared will not mean the right to privacy is surrendered. The individual will retain his privacy to body and mind.
This three-step formula is applied because the court realised the difficulty in a straitjacket interpretation of the constitutional status of the right to privacy. The final verdict of the court on the whole fiasco is still awaited. How the court’s decision affects the life of a common man will only be known with time!
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