Privacy does not enjoy the status of a fundamental right, Centre tells Supreme Court

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Attorney General K K Venugopal argued on behalf of the Centre in the right to privacy case in Supreme Court.

 HIGHLIGHTS

  • AG K K Venugopal argues for Centre in right to privacy case
  • Privacy does not enjoy status of fundamental right, says AG
  • 3 states back petitioners’ argument that privacy is a fundamental right

    Arguing in the right to privacy case before the nine-judge Constitution bench in Supreme Court today, Attorney General K K Venugopal said that privacy does not enjoy the status of a fundamental right.

    “Privacy is part of Right to Life under Article 21, but does not enjoy the status of a fundamental right,” said AG Venugopal on behalf of the Centre.

    The debate on privacy as a fundamental right is a part of the larger debate on Aadhaar and if the scheme violates one’s right to privacy.

    The Centre has earlier said that petitions challenging the validity of Aadhaar over violation of privacy cannot be entertained under Article 21.

    ATTORNEY GENERAL MOUNTS DEFENCE

    Arguing for the Centre, AG Venugopal said that framers of the Constitution intentionally omitted mention of privacy as a fundamental right.

    There are several aspects to Right to Life such as right to food, shelter and employment but everything does not enjoy the status of a fundamental right, said K K Venugopal in the Supreme Court today.

    The Attorney General said that there is no absolute Right to Life and deprivation of the right in certain instances is in-built in the Constitution.

    He said that while life and liberty are qualified rights under the Constitution but their every aspect is not a fundamental right and it cannot be elevated to that status.

    Petitioners want privacy on a whole to be declared as a fundamental right but it will have grave consequences, argued Attorney General Venugopal.

    He said that a World Bank report has identified Aadhaar as a great scheme for developing countries.

    THREE STATES SUPPORT PETITIONERS

    Kapil Sibal, appearing for the states Karnataka, West Bengal and Puducherry, told the nine-judge bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khekar that the states support the petitioners on the argument that privacy is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution.

    Kapil Sibal said that while privacy is not mentioned in the Constitution of America and Australia but it is a fundamental right.

    WHAT HAVE THE PETITIONED SAID

    Senior counsel Gopal Subramanium told the Supreme Court last Wednesday that the Preamble to the Constitution intrinsically guarantees the right. He said that liberty, which is fundamental to a democracy, cannot exist without privacy.

    Senior counsel Arvind Datar argued that right to privacy flows from Article 14 (Right to Equality), Article 19 (Freedom of Expression) and Article 21 (Right to Life). Arguing for privacy as a fundamental right, Dattar said that the court must not strictly lay the right to privacy under a single article.

    Former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee , appearing in support of privacy right, said that even if the Constitution did not “explicitly” provide this right, it could be deduced as had been done in the case of freedom of press.

    WHAT HAS THE COURT SAID SO FAR

    While hearing the petitioners, the Supreme Court observed that right to privacy cannot be absolute and the state may have powers to put reasonable curbs.

    The nine-judge Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice J S Khekar, comprises Justices J Chelameswar, S A Bobde, R K Agrawal, Rohinton Fali Nariman, Abhay Manohar Sapre, D Y Chandrachud, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and S Abdul Nazeer.

    “We live in an age of big data and the state is entitled to regulate the data whether it is for the purpose of regulating crime, taxation or other activities… Right to privacy cannot be so absolute that it prevents the state from legislating or regulating it,” the Constitution bench said.

    The Supreme Court also observed that ignorance of citizens on how personal data furnished by them was being used could not be the basis for not testing the validity of a law, in this case the Aadhaar Act.

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