The Supreme Court is on a roll. Just a couple of days after its wafer-thin majority but historic judgment on barring triple talaq, our honorable court, in a historic judgement that will affect the lives of over 1.3 billion Indians, announced that the "Right to Privacy" is now a Fundamental Right under the Constitution. And, unlike the one on triple talaq, this verdict given by a nine-judge bench was unanimous.
Whether the right to privacy is a fundamental right under the Indian Constitution was first raised in the Supreme Court before a three-judge bench, after a collection of petitions challenged the Narendra Modi government's move to make Aadhaar mandatory to receive benefits under the Centre's various social welfare schemes. (bgr.in)
The verdict on the right to privacy is being seen by many as a major setback for the government, which had argued that the constitution does not guarantee individual privacy as an inalienable fundamental right. The Judges concluded today, "The right to privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 and as a part of the freedoms guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution". (ndtv.com)
Today's verdict does not comment on whether the government's demand for Aadhaar to be linked to all financial transactions amounts to an infringement of privacy. That decision will be taken by a separate and smaller bench of the Supreme Court. But experts said that today's ruling could prompt the government to tweak its arguments in that case.
"All fundamental rights come with reasonable restrictions", said noted lawyer Prashant Bhushan. "Whether Aadhaar can be seen as a reasonable restriction has yet to be decided", he cautioned. (ndtv.com)
The petitioners in today's case had stressed that the Aadhaar database was originally presented as a purely voluntary programme that offered to provide every Indian with an identity card.
The government says Aadhaar is essential for all services including tax returns, opening bank accounts and securing loans, pensions and cash transfers for those entitled to welfare schemes. It had rejected suggestions that the Aadhaar programme, set up in 2009 by the previous Congress-led government, poses a threat to civil liberties. (ndtv.com)
Law and Justice and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, "Right to privacy is not absolute and that there have to be reasonable restrictions". However, the government ensured that it welcomes the judgement and stands with people.