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Right to privacy not fundamental right, Centre tells SC

Centre on Thursday told the Supreme Court that since privacy was multifaceted, it could not be treated as a fundamental right.

Written by: India TV News Desk, New Delhi [ Published on: July 27, 2017 16:28 IST ]
Right to privacy not fundamental right, Centre tells SC
Right to privacy not fundamental right, Centre tells SC

The Centre on Thursday told the Supreme Court that since privacy was multifaceted, it could not be treated as a fundamental right. Resuming his submissions on behalf of the state in 'Right to Privacy' case before a nine-judge bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar, Attorney General K K Venugopal stressed that it was not a fundamental right and it is evident from the Constituent Assembly debates. 

"There is no fundamental Right to Privacy. Even assuming privacy can be raised to the status of liberty, it is multi-faceted and every facet will not be eligible to claim the status of fundamental right," Venugopal told the bench, which also comprised Justices J Chelameswar, S A Bobde, R K Agrawal, Rohinton Fali Nariman, Abhay Manohar Sapre, D Y Chandrachud, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and S Abdul Nazeer.

He said "informational privacy" could not be a right to privacy and it could not ever be a fundamental right. 

Pleading to reject the demand, Venugopal said that even Constituent Assembly had refused to recognise privacy as fundamental right.

"India had declined to introduce privacy as fundamental right as is evident from the Constituent Assembly Debates. But now Your Lordships are being asked to hold privacy as fundamental right, which should be rejected," he said.

Right to Privacy was consciously considered and jettisoned [by Constituent Assembly]. Hence, it should not be read back, he argued. 

The Attorney General said that each aspect of privacy should be examined individually. "Even if Your Lordships hold that privacy can be read into Article 21, each and every aspect cannot be held to be part of it."

He further said, "If there is an overwhelming State interest involved, then as far as informational privacy is concerned, there will be a blanket right on the State to collect data."

"The fact that Aadhaar Act recognises privacy is a recognition that there is no fundamental right to privacy. That is why a law has been enacted," he argued. 

Venugopal had yesterday told the bench the right to privacy could be a fundamental right, but could not be "absolute".

The contentious issue of whether the right was a fundamental one was referred to a larger bench in 2015 after the Centre underlined two judgements delivered in 1950 and 1962 by the apex court that had held it was not a fundamental right.

The apex court had earlier observed the State could seek information such as details on the number of children a woman had, but but at the same time could not force her to answer a question on how many abortions she'd had.

The court had asked the AG the difference between the right to privacy being considered a common law right and a fundamental right.

He had replied that the common law right could be enforced by filing a civil law suit and if it was considered a fundamental right, the court could enforce it like any other writ.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, while representing four non-BJP ruled states -- Karnataka, West Bengal, Punjab and Puducherry -- had yesterday argued that these states supported the contention that the right to privacy be held as fundamental in the age of technological advancements.

Giving the example of the Global Positioning System (GPS), Sibal had said the movement of person could be tracked and misused by the State as well as by non-State actors.

The apex court had on July 18 set up the Constitution bench after the matter was referred to a larger bench by a five-judge bench.

The petitions had claimed the collection and sharing of biometric information, as required under the Aadhaar scheme, was a breach of the "fundamental" right to privacy.

The Centre had on July 19 submitted in the apex court that the Right to Privacy could not fall in the bracket of fundamental rights as there were binding decisions of larger benches that it was a common law right evolved through judicial pronouncements.

(With PTI inputs)

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