SC voices fear over misuse of data

Reserves judgment in privacy case

August 02, 2017 10:11 pm | Updated 10:11 pm IST - NEW DELHI

NEW DELHI, 13/07/2016: A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously quashed Arunachal Pradesh Governor J.P. Rajkhowa's decision to advance the Assembly session from January 14, 2016 to December 16, 2015, a move which triggered political unrest in the sensitive border State and culminated in the declaration of President's rule on January 26, in New Delhi. 
Photo: R. V. Moorthy

NEW DELHI, 13/07/2016: A Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday unanimously quashed Arunachal Pradesh Governor J.P. Rajkhowa's decision to advance the Assembly session from January 14, 2016 to December 16, 2015, a move which triggered political unrest in the sensitive border State and culminated in the declaration of President's rule on January 26, in New Delhi. Photo: R. V. Moorthy

The Supreme Court on Wednesday voiced apprehension over the possible misuse of personal data in public domain, saying the race to maintain privacy against the advent of technology was a losing battle.

A nine-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar wrapped up the marathon hearing of the reference on the question whether privacy was a fundamental right or not, and reserved its judgment.

The verdict is expected to be pronounced before August 27, before the retirement of Chief Justice Khehar.

Formidable line-up

A formidable line-up of senior lawyers and legal experts participated in the hearing and argued on the impact of a judicial declaration that privacy was a fundamental right.

They included Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal, senior counsel Soli Sorabjee, Kapil Sibal, Gopal Subramanium, Shyam Divan, Arvind Dattar, Anand Grover, C.A. Sundaram, Rakesh Dwivedi, Additional Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta, Sajan Poovayya and lawyers Vipin Nair, Arghaya Sengupta and Gopal Sankaranarayanan.

The Bench, which mooted the suggestion of framing “overarching” guidelines to protect private information in public domain, said there was a need to “maintain the core of privacy”.

“We are fighting a losing battle of privacy. We do not know for what purpose the information will be used. This is exactly a cause of concern,” said the Bench, which included Justices J. Chelameswar, S.A. Bobde, R.K. Agrawal, R.F. Nariman, A.M. Sapre, D.Y. Chandrachud, S.K. Kaul and S. Abdul Nazeer.

Basic information

Mr. Dwivedi, who argued on the last day of the hearing, submitted that providing basic personal information could not be covered under the right to privacy.

However, the Bench highlighted the need to define privacy as India had become a “knowledge-based economy”, and had nearly 1.4 billion people whose personal information was in the public domain.

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