Right to privacy: what the Supreme Court verdict means for the common man

Court had expressed apprehensions of State passing on personal data collected from citizens to private players.

Updated - August 24, 2017 05:04 pm IST

Published - August 24, 2017 12:39 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

A view of the Supreme Court of India.

A view of the Supreme Court of India.

The historic fallout of the nine-judge Bench judgment, declaring privacy as intrinsic to life and liberty and an inherent right protected by Part III of the Constitution, is that an ordinary man can now directly approach the Supreme Court and the High Courts for violation of his fundamental right under the Constitution.

By making privacy an intrinsic part of life and liberty under Article 21, it is not just a citizen, but anyone, whether an Indian national or not, can move the constitutional courts of the land under Articles 32 and 226, respectively, to get justice.


By declaring that privacy is inherent to each and every fundamental freedom in Part III of the Constitution, the Supreme Court has made privacy an essential ingredient of other important fundamental freedoms, including right to equality, free speech and expression, religion and a myriad other important fundamental rights essential for a dignified existence subject to reasonable restrictions of public health, morality and order.

The court, by declaring that privacy is protected under the Constitution has armed the common man against unreasonable State intrusions and protected informational privacy in a digital age.

The court, while hearing the case, had expressed apprehensions of State passing on personal data collected from citizens to private players.

“I don't want the State to pass on my personal information to some 2000 service providers who will send me WhatsApp messages offering cosmetics and air conditioners... That is our area of concern. Personal details turn into vital commercial information for private service providers," Justice D.Y. Chandrachud had once observed.

As of now, data protection provisions are scattered across several statutes. The Information Technology (Reasonable Security Practices and Procedures and Sensitive Personal Data or Information) Rules of 2011 provides for the secure storage of personal data.

There is an entire chapter in the Aadhaar Act of 2016 devoted to privacy and security of personal data.

An Expert Group on Privacy, chaired by former Delhi High Court Chief Justice A.P. Shah, submitted a report to the Planning Commission in 2012. It had distilled global privacy practices and enumerated them in what the group called the National Privacy Principles.

The report had recommended the passing of a law that makes privacy safeguards technology neutral and to apply it to both government and private sectors.

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