Right to privacy verdict: Privacy realms span from abortion to euthanasia

Justice Chelameswar’s judgment throws light on implications

August 25, 2017 10:33 pm | Updated August 26, 2017 09:55 am IST - NEW DELHI

J. Chelameswar.

J. Chelameswar.

The realm of the fundamental right to privacy span from women’s reproductive choice and choice of food or faith to euthanasia. Neither the State nor private persons have any business to intrude, Justice J. Chelameswar wrote in his separate judgment on privacy.

“A woman’s freedom of choice whether to bear a child or abort her pregnancy are areas which fall in the realm of privacy,” Justice Chelameswar observed.

The judgment’s observation comes when the Supreme Court is seized with the cases of numerous women who are fighting for their right to reproductive choice.

These women and girl children, including victims of rape, are fighting a battle for the right to abort their foetuses. Abortion is legally barred if the pregnancy has crossed 20 weeks.

Similarly another burning issue in the Supreme Court is a person’s right to active euthanasia. This is a crime under attempt to suicide. A person who helps a terminally ill person to take his own life is booked under abetment to suicide.

“An individual’s rights to refuse life prolonging medical treatment or terminate his life is another freedom which fall within the zone of the right of privacy,” Justice Chelameswar wrote.

The judge condemns any State intrusion into what a person should “read or think” as a “conditioning process” of the masses’ thoughts. This, he held, is a violation of privacy.

“Insofar as religious beliefs are concerned, a good deal of the misery our species suffer owes its existence to and centres around competing claims of the right to propagate religion," Justice Chelameswar observed.

The judge held that it is not for the State to decide what a person "should eat or wear". This judgment will have a telling effect on the ongoing litigation into beef slaughter and consumption bans by certain state governments. The apex court on Friday, a day after the privacy judgment, said the beef ban in states like Maharashtra have to be reconsidered in the lighr of the nine-judge bench verdict upholding privacy as an inherent, natural and fundamental right.

"The freedom of the belief or faith in any religion is a matter of conscience falling within the zone of purely private thought process and is an aspect of liberty," the judge wrote. An individual's political belief form part of his freedom of conscience and comes under the fundamental right to life and liberty of which privacy is a core value.

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