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Government, Congress spar over right to privacy verdict

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.   | Photo Credit: Kamal Narang

Moments after meeting Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his North Block office, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad welcomed the Supreme Court judgment on the right to privacy, and claimed it affirmed the government’s position. However, taking on the Centre, Congress president Sonia Gandhi said the judgment “strikes a blow to the government’s arrogant attempts at curbing individual liberties.”

“The government has been consistently of the view that the right to privacy should be a fundamental right flowing from Article 21 and it should be subject to reasonable restrictions as enshrined there,” Mr. Prasad said at a special briefing.

In a departure from the norm, Mr. Prasad used the official briefing at the Press Information Bureau to target the Congress. “What has been the Congress’s record in the protection of individual liberty? During the Emergency, the then Attorney-General argued that if a person is killed in jail, there is no remedy. That is the party’s record.”

“What has been the Congress’ record in the protection of individual liberty? During the Emergency, the then Attorney General had argued that if a person is killed inside a jail, there is no remedy. That is the Congress’ record,” the Minister said. The government’s response was formulated at meeting between Mr Jaitley, Mr. Prasad and Mr. Nripendra Kumar Mishra, the Prime Minister’s principal secretary.

 

‘New era’

The government’s sharp riposte came after Ms. Gandhi said, “The Supreme Court judgement on ‘Fundamental Right to privacy' 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.” Finance Minister Arun Jaitey responded by saying, “the issue went to Court only because the United Progressive Alliance government was collecting data without a law.”

At the special briefing, journalists pointed out that that the Attorney General had argued in the Supreme Court against privacy being a fundamental right. Mr Prasad countered by reading out a part of the AG's argument. “He said ‘No blanket right to privacy can be read as part of fundamental rights and therefore, the concept of the right to privacy is already covered by those enumerated by Part 3 and they shall be in any case protected,” the Minister said.

Former Congress Minister and lawyer Salman Khurshid tweeted, “Hope cheer leaders remember the govt. aggressively opposed Privacy Right before Court. Shall await ministers congratulating the PM for this.”

“Privacy Fundamental Right has far reaching implications 4 our democracy. Celebrate the defeat of forces that wish to intrude in our lives,” Mr. Khurshid said in another tweet.


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Printable version | Oct 19, 2021 10:48:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/government-congress-spar-over-right-to-privacy-verdict/article19555936.ece

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