During the Supreme Court hearing on Aadhaar card privacy issue on Wednesday, Attorney General K K Venugopal argued that privacy as a fundamental right was deliberately avoided from Article 21. “Privacy, as a fundamental right, could have been mentioned in 21, but has been omitted. This was deliberate.”
Venugopal, who was arguing for the government, also said “the rights under 21 are not absolute. That is why we have the death penalty for gross crimes and incarceration for crimes.” He also argued that right to life “transcends” right to privacy.
The nine-judge Constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice of India Jagdish Singh Khehar, began their hearing in the case in which petitioners contest that the twelve-digit biometric unique identification card raises privacy threat. The petitioners had completed their argument in the apex court on July 20.
“The issue is simple. Is there a fundamental right to privacy under the Indian Constitution? The view that existed earlier was an opinion that different fundamental rights were individual and distinct. And that Article 21 was a residuary right. The basic freedoms were under article 19,” Advocate Gopal Subramanium, who is appearing for the petitioners, said on Tuesday. He also argued that privacy is embedded in all processes of human life and liberty.
Karnataka, West Bengal, Punjab and Puducherry have also moved the top court seeking to intervene in the matter. Senior advocate and former Union Minister Kapil Sibal, who is representing the four states, said that in the light of technological advancement, the court needs to take a fresh look on the Right to Privacy and its contours in the modern day.
“Privacy cannot be an absolute right. But it is a Fundamental Right. This court needs to strike a balance,” Sibal said. The hearing is currently underway.
Last week, the Centre also told the apex court that personal data was part of a person’s fundamental right to life and cannot be shared freely by internet service providers or social networking sites. The development is contrary to the stand already taken by the government in the Aadhaar issue stating that citizens do not have a fundamental right to privacy.
“My (individual) personal data is intimate to me. It is an integral part of my right to lead a life with dignity. If there is any contractual obligation between the individual and the internet service provider and it impinges on the individual’s right (under Article 21), State will have to intervene and regulate sharing of such data,” Additional Solicitor General P S Narasimha told a five-judge Constitution Bench during a hearing on the WhatsApp privacy matter.