Right to privacy is fundamental right? Maharashtra government opposes move, says it is a mere concept

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Published: July 28, 2017 5:42:04 AM

Opposing the right to privacy being elevated to a fundamental right, the Maharashtra government on Thursday told the Supreme Court that privacy was not a standalone right, but “can be relative to existing enumerated rights under the Constitution.”

Right to privacy, Maharashtra government on right to privacy, Supreme Court, CA Sundaram, KK Venugopal, jurisprudential tradition, PAN card, Aadhaar ActSenior counsel CA Sundaram told the SC that an undefined right, which was ambiguous in nature, could not be granted the status of a fundamental right. (Image: PTI)

Opposing the right to privacy being elevated to a fundamental right, the Maharashtra government on Thursday told the Supreme Court that privacy was not a standalone right, but “can be relative to existing enumerated rights under the Constitution”. Senior counsel CA Sundaram, appearing for the state, told the nine-judge Constitution bench that that undefined right which was ambiguous in nature can’t be granted the status of a fundamental right. “Privacy is a mere concept and one person’s concept of it would differ from another’s,” he said. Claiming a wrong interpretation of the 1962 case law of Kharak Singh, he argued that the ruling had rightly struck down privacy as a fundamental right. “The right being infringed has to be tangible, which privacy is not,” he argued.

Earlier in the day, Attorney General KK Venugopal concluded his arguments by pointing out that India has an indigenous jurisprudential tradition of its own and the court should look beyond the US Supreme Court judgments that the petitioners are citing in favour of right to privacy. He said the social and cultural landscape of a country was important with respect to the right to privacy. “Several American judges did not consider EU judgments since they were of the view that cultural and social environment in the US is different than EU. The due process clause in the American Constitution protects those rights which are rooted in American history and culture and India should also do the same. We must not blindly follow foreign jurisprudence,” he said.

The AG said the Aadhaar card is required to avail government services, just like a PAN card is required to file income tax returns. “An amendment to this effect in the IT Act was upheld in a previous judgment of the apex court in a PAN-related case. Even if there is a fundamental right to privacy, there is no such claim involved in this case, ” he said, adding that under Section 29 of the Aadhaar Act, disclosure of core biometrics is prohibited.

He further told the court that the right to informational privacy cannot be elevated to the level of fundamental right. “Census, passport and voter registration details are taken and put in public domain, and haven’t ever been challenged, but Aadhaar has been challenged,” he contended.
Arguments in the case will resume on August 1.

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