Jayalalithaa fingerprints verification: Does privacy outlive death, asks Supreme Court

Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa. File   | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The Supreme Court has thrown open the floor for debate on whether an individual’s fundamental right to privacy subsists after death.

The question rose in a challenge raised against a Madras High Court order to produce the Aadhaar data records of the late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa for verification of her fingerprints.

‘HC’s intrusion’

The apex court stayed the High Court order on a petition filed by AIADMK leaders.

Also read: Can’t share Jayalalithaa’s thumb prints due to statutory bar, UIDAI tells HC

They argue that the fundamental right to privacy remains alive even after the person’s death.

The petition said the “intrusion” by the High Court into Jayalalithaa’s privacy would not have happened had she been alive.

The court would have been forced to get her consent.

“Her death does not make any difference as Right to Privacy is available to every citizen

during his/ her life time and even after the death of that person,” the petition said.

The apex court has decided to examine whether the High Court’s order “amounts to intruding of fundamental right to privacy of a third party.”

Virtual world

The issue raises a significant question as a part of modern man’s personal life and identity is embedded in the virtual world.

The case raises the issue whether courts and authorities can order to see an individual’s personal data without consent after his or her death.

The examination has to be done in the backdrop of the landmark verdict of nine judges of the Supreme Court which upheld privacy as a fundamental right on August 24.

The various judges on the Bench, in their separate opinions, deal with the individual’s fundamental right to privacy during the lifetime of the person, that is from birth to death.

The judgement is silent on whether privacy continues after death.

Or does the definition of “life” in the judgement extend to after-life.

“Privacy is a concomitant of the right of the individual to exercise control over his or her personality,” Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said in his exhaustive majority judgement.

But does the control over personality continue after death?

‘Life with dignity’

Justice Chandrachud talks about a “life with dignity” and how privacy ensures the fulfilment of dignity.

Justice S.A. Bobde, in his separate opinion, also talks about privacy in life and the “innumerable activities” between birth and death.

He said even the acts of birth and death are events when privacy is required for ensuring dignity amongst all civilised people.

But Justice Bobde is silent on privacy after death.

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2021 5:21:39 PM |

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