The Supreme Court will deliver its verdict on whether right to privacy is a fundamental right on August 11. If the three-judge bench fails to find any authoritative ruling on privacy being a fundamental right, it will refer the issue to a Constitution Bench for a definitive precedent.
The strength and status of right to privacy has been called into question by the government, which has disputed that privacy is a fundamental right. The government has contended that the Constitution does not put right to privacy at that high pedestal where it becomes an integral part of the right to life under Article 21.
On Thursday, the bench led by Justice J Chelameswar reserved its verdict on referring the matter to the Chief Justice of India for constituting a larger bench, which could rule on the status of right to privacy. But if the three-judge bench holds that there are already standard judgments underlining it to be a fundamental right, it does not need to refer the matter.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi has vehemently argued for letting a larger bench decide it since, according to him, there have been conflicting judgments by the Supreme Court. The government’s arguments have come in defence of the Aadhaar card. A batch of petitions have claimed that collection and sharing of biometric information, as required for the Aadhaar card, is a breach of the “fundamental” right to privacy but Rohatgi has questioned the sanctity of this right.
He said the two Constitution Bench judgments, in 1954 and 1963, which held that right to privacy is not a fundamental right, has not been overruled by any subsequent judgment by a larger bench.
However, a few smaller benches have later read right to privacy into fundamental rights relating to life and liberty (Article 21) or the right to free speech, movement and peaceful association (Article 19), according to Rohatgi.
He said that in view of such conflicting mandates, it was imperative for a Constitution Bench to reconsider all judgments of the Supreme Court in the past two decades, which defined right to privacy as a fundamental right.
Rohatgi sought a decision on how privacy is to be construed as a right and if it is held to be a fundamental right, what could be its contours and expanse.