The Congress today hailed the Supreme Court verdict declaring privacy a fundamental right as a “landmark judgement” and said it was a blow to “fascist forces” and the “unbridled encroachment and surveillance” by the State in the common man’s life. Congress president Sonia Gandhi said the verdict today heralded a new era for individual rights and human dignity, while party vice president Rahul Gandhi said it was a rejection of the BJP’s ideology of “suppression through surveillance”. At the party’s media briefing here, senior spokesperson P Chidambaram said the judges’ unanimous verdict was a setback to the Centre which said in court that there could be no fundamental right to privacy. Welcoming the judgement, the Congress president said the party and its governments, along with the rest of the Opposition, stood together in court and in Parliament in speaking out for the right and against what she called the “arrogant attempts” of the Centre to curtail it. “The Supreme Court judgement… heralds a new era for individual rights, personal liberty and human dignity. It strikes a blow on the unbridled encroachment and surveillance by the state and its agencies in the life of the common man,” she said in a statement.
Rahul Gandhi said the judgement was a “victory for every Indian”. “Welcome the SC verdict upholding right to privacy as an intrinsic part of individual’s liberty, freedom and dignity. The SC decision marks a major blow to fascist forces,” he said on Twitter. It was a “sound rejection” of the BJP’s ideology of “suppression through surveillance”, he said. Chidambaram believed the verdict would rank “among the most important judgements delivered by the Supreme Court since the advent of the Constitution of India”. “Privacy is at the core of personal liberty. In fact, privacy is an inalienable part of life itself. By virtue of the judgement, Article 21 has acquired new magnificence,” he told reporters.
The former finance minister criticised the government’s approach in its interpretation of Aadhaar under Article 21 — on the protection of life and personal liberty — and alleged its stand was “inconsistent”. He also said Aadhaar was conceived as an “administrative tool” to ensure that the benefits of welfare schemes reached the targeted people and there were no leakages and falsification. “But Aadhaar can’t become a beyond-all, end-all of all administrative issues,” he said. The fault, he added, was not with the concept, but with the BJP government’s “use and misuse” of Aadhaar as a tool.
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He said the government’s approach to Aadhaar was “totally inconsistent” with the previous UPA government’s position, which was why challenges had risen. Chidambaram said privacy was a fundamental right and “the freedom that was won in 1947 has been enriched and enlarged”. He said the Congress took pride in the Supreme Court’s judgement that privacy was a fundamental right and not dependent on government benevolence. “Today, we can once again celebrate our freedom. Tomorrow, there will be other challenges, other questions, and other attempts to invade the right to privacy. We shall overcome those challenges too,” he said.
Aadhaar, as conceived by UPA, posed no challenge to the right to privacy, he stressed. “It is the Modi government’s implementation that does.” Chidambaram said there was nothing wrong in distributing Aadhaar cards or in asking citizens to apply for such cards. Asked whether the verdict would have an effect on issues such as Section 377 of the IPC, which criminalises homosexuality, he said the Section was rightly struck down by the Delhi High Court but (the order) was reversed by the Supreme Court.
“In the light of this judgement, it should be possible to ask the Supreme Court to take a second look at that judgement. I think many questions will arise now. There are issues about data protection, dangers of data colonisation, and the nature of data transfer,” he said.
Congress’s media department in-charge Randeep Surjewala said the Supreme Court had stopped the BJP government, which “tried to turn India into a police state”, in its tracks. He described the verdict as the “dawn of a new freedom” and a “decisive defeat” for the BJP government. It was a blow to “the creeping advances of those who want to convert India into a fascist police state”, he said, adding that the “conspiracy has been nipped in the bud”.
He called it a “great victory” for liberty and freedom. “The Court rejects Modi government’s attempt to whittle down the right to privacy as a fundamental right,” he said. Former Law Minister Ashwani Kumar said the Court had vindicated “constitutional conscience” and validated yet again its role as “the guardian of our constitutional rights”.
“The right to privacy has finally been recognised as part of man’s ‘inviolate personality’ and as a right that is inherent and inalienable to human personality,” Kumar said. In a landmark decision that will affect the lives of all Indians, the Supreme Court unanimously declared the right to privacy a fundamental right under the Constitution.