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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

CCTVs in spas violate right to ‘bodily’ privacy: Madras High Court

Justice GR Swaminathan made the observation that the installation of CCTV equipment inside premises such as a spa would "unquestionably infract upon a person’s bodily autonomy."

By: Express Web Desk | Chennai |
Updated: January 6, 2022 7:54:26 am
Madras High Court (File)

The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court Tuesday observed that the installation of CCTV cameras in a spa was violative of the fundamental “bodily” privacy of a person.

Justice G R Swaminathan made the observation that the installation of CCTV equipment inside premises such as a spa would “unquestionably infract upon a person’s bodily autonomy,” and said, “These are inviolable spaces where the prying eye of the state simply cannot be allowed to enter.”

Justice Swaminathan said the Supreme Court had held that privacy as guaranteed in Article 21 takes different forms — it includes a right to bodily autonomy, a right to informational privacy and a right to a privacy of choice.

The court made the observations while hearing a plea by petitioner Payel Biswas, who runs a spa named ‘Queen Ayurvedic Cross Spa Centre in Tamil Nadu’s Tiruchirappalli district. The petitioner sought directions to the police to issue a no objection certificate (NOC) to run the spa.

During the hearing, the government counsel informed the court that while dealing with a similar petition, Justice S M Subramaniam had passed an order directing installation of CCTV cameras in all spas across the state, with a view to preventing illegal activities.

Justice Swaminathan said that Justice Subramaniam’s order was against the Supreme Court’s order on privacy.

“In my humblest opinion, and I say this with the greatest of respect to my revered brother Judge, the judgment in C P Girija v. The Superintendent of Police and Others appears to run counter to the law laid down by the 9-judge bench judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in K S Puttaswamy v. Union of India, (2017) 10 SCC 1.”

“Article 21 of the Constitution guarantees to all persons the fundamental right to privacy. Through a unanimous verdict, the Hon’ble Supreme Court declared in ringing terms that the right to life and personal liberty guaranteed in Article 21 also includes implicitly within it a right to privacy,” he said.

Swaminathan said the right to privacy is seen as both “possessing inherent value in that it is important for every person’s basic dignity, and also instrumental value in that it furthers a person’s ability to live life free of interference.”

“A decision to install a CCTV camera which has a bearing on a person’s privacy requires the most careful of considerations—it requires the government to apply its mind prudently and determine what manner of regulations ought to be put in place for its proper use,” he added.

Justice Swaminathan also noted that it was time to look beyond viewing privacy as an individual right. He quoted from the work of Professor Priscilla M Regan, where she highlighted the importance of developing and understanding the social importance of privacy.

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