SC unanimously votes Privacy a Fundamental Right

A 9-judge Supreme court bench has ruled unanimously that individual privacy is a fundamental right.

In a far reaching verdict,  the bench ruled that individual privacy is a fundamental right protected by the constitution. It ruled that it is an intrinsic part of Right to Life and Liberty. The order is based on an array of petitions that have challenged the mandatory use of Aadhaar cards which assign a unique  ID to every citizen.

The nine-member bench was hearing a clutch of petitions challenging the mandatory use of the 12-digit Aadhaar national identity cards, as an infringement of privacy and issues concerning data breach.

The petitioners said enforcing the use of Aadhaar was an infringement of privacy, stressing that the Aadhaar database was originally intended as a purely voluntary programme to provide every Indian with a national identity card.

However, the court has not ruled on the validity of sharing information under Aadhaar today, which will be decided separately by a smaller 5-judge bench.

The court has overruled two earlier verdicts on the right to privacy. The nine judges were unanimous in their verdict, but have given different reasons for arriving at it.

The government had argued that the constitution does not guarantee individual privacy as an inalienable fundamental right. The petitioners argued that although the right to privacy is not explicitly set out in India's constitution, it nevertheless guarantees it implicitly.

This was counterd by Gopal Subramanium, a lawyer for the petitioners, who said "Our constitution gives us liberty to live life. "Liberty existed even before the constitution was drafted and it includes privacy. There cannot be a question of diminution but expansion of a right. Right to liberty includes freedom from encroachment on his or her privacy," he had said.