A CASE C0MMENT 0NK.S. PUTTASWAMY VS. UN!0N0F !ND!A Subm!tted by: Karan Kaush!kR0ll N0. 52613 3rd Semester 3 year c0urse A CASE C0MMENT 0N:K.
S. PUTTASWAMY VS. UN!0N0F !ND!A !NTR0DUCT!0N Thema!n !ssue !n the case was whether pr!vacy !s a fundamental r!ght guaranteedunder the C0nst!tut!0n. Deta!ls 0n h0w the !ssue ar0se: As !t s0 happened, thatthe Att0rney General 0f !nd!a had st00d up dur!ng the t!me when the Aadharscheme was challenged, & had asserted that the C0nst!tut!0n d!d n0tguarantee any Fundamental R!ght t0 Pr!vacy. The three judges hear!ng thecasereferred the C0nst!tut!0nal quest!0n t0 a larger bench 0f f!ve judges. Thef!ve-judge bench further referred the case t0 a n!ne-judge bench. Hence, thequest!0n t0 be dec!ded by the n!ne-judge bench 0f the Supreme C0urt !n thepresent case was whether r!ght t0 pr!vacy was a fundamental r!ght under the !nd!anC0nst!tut!0n. Thethree-judge bench 0n a ser!es 0f pet!t!0ns challeng!ng the Aadhaar scheme as av!0lat!0n 0f pr!vacy, had clar!f!ed that dem&s made by 0ff!c!als f0rAadhaar card was !n clear v!0lat!0n 0f a pr!0r Supreme C0urt’s !nter!m 0rder wh!chstated that Aadhaarscheme !s v0luntary.
Thereafter, the Centre argued !n the C0urt, that C0nst!tut!0n makers d!d n0t !ntend t0make r!ght t0 pr!vacy a fundamental r!ght. The Centre argued thus, that therewas n0 fundamental r!ght t0 pr!vacy. & c0nsequently, the Centre stated thatthe pet!t!0ns f!led bef0re the C0urt under art!cle 32 sh0uld be d!sm!ssed. TheCentre had made tw0 bas!c assert!0ns- that R!ght t0 pr!vacy !s n0t abs0lute, the R!ght t0 pr!vacy !s subject t0 restr!ct!0ns !n publ!c !nterest.Thethree-judge Bench reserved !ts 0rder 0n the pet!t!0ns. The pet!t!0ns had bas!callychallenged the Aadhaar card pr0ject, by stat!ng that !ts b!0-metr!c reg!strat!0npr0cess & l!nkage t0 bas!c & essent!al subs!d!es, was a v!0lat!0n 0fthe c!t!zens’ r!ght t0 pr!vacy. The Centre thereafter s0ught a larger bench t0answer quest!0ns 0f law, pr!mar!ly whether pr!vacy !s a fundamental r!ghtguaranteed under the C0nst!tut!0n.Thethree-judge Bench held that “balance 0f !nterest” !s better served !f Aadhaar !smade ne!ther m&at0ry n0r a c0nd!t!0n f0r access!ng benef!ts 0ne !s alreadyent!tled t0.
The l0wer c0urt theref0re clar!f!ed the !nter!m 0rder w!ll rema!n !nf0rce t!ll a f!ve-judge bench dec!ded 0n the larger c0nst!tut!0nal !ssuewhether the Aadhaar scheme, & !ts b!0metr!c m0de 0f reg!strat!0n, am0unts t0an !ntrus!0n !nt0 the pr!vacy 0f a c!t!zen.TheSupreme C0urt referred t0 a C0nst!tut!0n Bench the quest!0n whether a pers0ncan v0luntar!ly shed h!s r!ght t0 pr!vacy by enr0ll!ng f0r Aadhaar t0 eas!lyaccess g0vernment welfare serv!ces. The Bench d!d n0t m0d!fy !ts earl!er 0rderrestr!ct!ng the use 0f Aadhaar cards t0 0nly publ!c d!str!but!0n system &LPG c0nnect!0ns.
!nstead, !t left the 0rder 0pen f0r the C0nst!tut!0n Bench t0c0ns!der !t & take a call.TheSupreme C0urt under then Ch!ef Just!ce 0f !nd!a H.L. Dattu dec!ded t0 set up an0therC0nst!tut!0n Bench t0 re-l00k the quest!0n !n the l!ght 0f c0ntr0versy that theAadhaar card scheme !s an !nvas!0n !nt0 c!t!zen’s pr!vacy.
!n 0ct0ber 2015, theSupreme C0urt extended the v0luntary use 0f Aadhar card t0 the Mahatma G!Nat!0nal Rural Empl0yment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), all types 0f pens!0nsschemes, empl0yee pr0v!dent fund & the Pr!me M!n!ster Jan DhanY0jana. The f!ve-judgeC0nst!tut!0n Bench led by Ch!ef Just!ce 0f !nd!a H.L. Dattu stated that thepurely v0luntary nature 0f the use 0f Aadhaar card t0 access publ!c serv!ce w!llc0nt!nue t!ll the c0urt takes a f!nal dec!s!0n 0n whether Aadhaar scheme !s an !nvas!0n!nt0 the r!ght t0 pr!vacy 0f the c!t!zen.
H!ST0RY 0F THE LAWAf!ve-judge Bench 0f Ch!ef Just!ce J.S. Khehar, Just!ces Chelameswar, B0bde,D.
Y. Ch & S. Abdul Nazeerhad dec!ded that a n!ne-judge Bench 0fthe Supreme C0urt sh0uld f!rst dec!de the quest!0n whether pr!vacy !s afundamental r!ght & part 0f the bas!c structure 0f the !nd!an C0nst!tut!0n.There were tw0 judgments 0f the Supreme C0urt 0n the subject — the M.P.Sharma case verd!ct pr0n0unced by an e!ght-judge Bench sh0rtly after the !nd!anC0nst!tut!0n came !nt0 f0rce !n 1950 & the Kharak S!ngh case verd!ct0f 1962 by a s!x-judge Bench. !t was these tw0 judgments that had d0m!nated thejud!c!al d!al0gue 0n pr!vacy s!nce !ndependence. B0th judgments had c0ncludedthat pr!vacy was n0t a fundamental 0r ‘guaranteed’ r!ght.
T0 0verc0me these tw0precedents, a numer!cally super!0r Bench 0f n!ne judges, as !n the presentcase, was requ!red. !nKharak S!ngh, the Supreme C0urt had c0ns!dered the c0nst!tut!0nal!ty 0f var!0usf0rms 0f p0l!ce surve!llance up0n a “h!st0ry-sheeter”. !t had upheld rep0rt!ngrequ!rements, travel-restr!ct!0ns, shad0w!ng & s0 0n, but had struck-d0wn atab 0n the n!ghtly v!s!ts as be!ng a v!0lat!0n 0f “0rdered l!berty”. Thus, thec0urt had actually all0wed r!ght t0 pr!vacy 0n certa!n aspects, l!ke keep!ng atab 0n a pers0n wh0 !s 0n h!s n!ghtly v!s!ts t0 0ther’s h0uses. S!m!larly,!n the M.P Sharma case, the c0urt had refused t0 accept pr!vacy as a part 0ffundamental r!ght because the c0urt had refused t0 f!nd a s!m!lar!ty betweenthe Amer!can F0urth Amendment wh!ch relates t0 pr0tect!ng “the r!ght 0f the pe0plet0 be secure !n the!r pers0ns, h0uses, papers & effects, aga!nst unreas0nablesearches & se!zures” & Art!cle 20(3) 0f the C0nst!tut!0n wh!ch relatest0 the pr0tect!0n aga!nst self-!ncr!m!nat!0n. C0URT JUDGMENT & RAT!0NALEThedec!s!0n !n M.
P Sharma case, wh!ch held that the r!ght t0 pr!vacy !s n0t pr0tectedby the C0nst!tut!0n, n0w st&s 0verruled. Just!ce Nar!man, Just!ceChelameshwar, Just!ce B0bde, & Just!ce Ch&rachud held that the Amer!canF0urth Amendment c0uld n0t be !nc0rp0rated !nt0 the guarantee aga!nst self-!ncr!m!nat!0n!n the !nd!an C0nst!tut!0n. H0wever, the F0urth Amendment, wh!ch was l!m!ted t0pr0tect!ng “the r!ght 0f the pe0ple t0 be secure !n the!r pers0ns, h0uses,papers & effects, aga!nst unreas0nable searches & se!zures” was n0t, &had never been, exhaust!ve 0f the c0ncept 0f the R!ght t0 Pr!vacy. Theref0re,even !f M.
P Sharma was c0rrect !n refus!ng t0 f!nd a s!m!lar!ty w!th the F0urthAmendment !n Art!cle 20(3) 0f the !nd!an C0nst!tut!0n, that was n0 warrant t0 h0ldthat there was n0 Fundamental R!ght t0 Pr!vacy. Thec0urt stated that Pr!vacy !s a much br0ader c0ncept. !n the w0rds 0f Just!ce B0bde,” M.
P Sharma !s unc0nv!nc!ng n0t 0nly because !t arr!ved at !t’s c0nclus!0n w!th0utenqu!ry !nt0 whether a r!ght t0 pr!vacy c0uld ex!st !n 0ur C0nst!tut!0n 0n an !ndependentf00t!ng 0r n0t, but because !t wr0ngly t00k the Un!ted States F0urth Amendment,wh!ch !n !tself !s n0 m0re than a l!m!ted pr0tect!0n aga!nst unlawful surve!llance,t0 be a c0mprehens!ve c0nst!tut!0nal guarantee 0f pr!vacy !n that jur!sd!ct!0n”. Thedec!s!0n !n Kharak S!ngh case wh!ch held that the r!ght t0 pr!vacy !s n0t pr0tectedby the C0nst!tut!0n, als0 n0w st&s 0verruled. !n Kharak S!ngh, the SupremeC0urt had c0ns!dered the c0nst!tut!0nal!ty 0f var!0us f0rms 0f p0l!ce surve!llanceup0n a “h!st0ry-sheeter”. !t had upheld rep0rt!ng requ!rements, travel-restr!ct!0ns,shad0w!ng & s0 0n, but had struck-d0wn a tab 0n the n!ghtly v!s!ts as be!nga v!0lat!0n 0f “0rdered l!berty”. The C0urt, wh!le reject!ng Kharak S!ngh, sa!dthat the Kharak S!ngh judgment was !nternally c0ntrad!ct0ry.
0n the 0ne h&,the Kharak S!ngh judgment sa!d that pr!vacy !s n0t a fundamental r!ght, & 0nthe 0ther h&, !t str!kes d0wn a tab 0n the n!ghtly v!s!ts, wh!ch c0uld 0nlybe d0ne when the pr!vacy was a part 0f the Fundamental R!ghts. Just!ce Nar!manhad n0ted, “as the maj0r!ty judgment c0ntrad!cts !tself 0n certa!n v!talaspects, !t can be c0rrect t0 say that !t cann0t be g!ven much value as a b!nd!ngprecedent”.ANALYS!SThejudgment 0f the c0urt !s path break!ng. The c0urt c0uld have g!ven !t a narr0wcast & frame, 0r the c0urt c0uld have s!mply l!m!ted the r!ght t0 pr!vacy t0just be!ng an aspect 0f d!gn!ty. The c0urt may even have g!ven the r!ght t0 pr!vacyas a restr!ct!ve r!ght as just be!ng der!ved fr0m Art!cle 21. The c0urt, h0wever,d!d ent!rely 0pp0s!te.
All n!ne judges agreed that pr!vacy was at the heart 0f !nd!v!dualself-determ!nat!0n, 0f d!gn!ty, aut0n0my & l!berty, & !nseparable fr0mthe mean!ngful exerc!se 0f guaranteed freed0ms such as speech, d!gn!ty, ass0c!at!0n,m0vement, & pers0nal l!berty.Th!s, !n my v!ew, !s the pr!mary reas0n why th!sjudgment deserves t0 be a l&mark !n c0nst!tut!0nal !nterpretat!0n &pract!ce. Th!s judgment d0es n0t !gn0re the w0rld !n wh!ch !nd!v!duals struggleaga!nst c0erc!ve State p0wer, & thus !ncludes a str!ng 0f !deas that g!ve !tmean!ng & s!gn!f!cance. The freed0m under Art!cle 19 can be fulf!lled 0nlywhen an !nd!v!dual !s ent!tled t0 dec!de up0n h!s 0r her preferences.
L!bertyenables the !nd!v!dual t0 have a ch0!ce 0f preferences 0n var!0us facets 0f l!fe!nclud!ng h0w 0ne w!ll eat, the way 0ne w!ll dress, the fa!th 0ne w!ll f0ll0w &many 0ther matters 0n wh!ch aut0n0my & self-determ!nat!0n requ!re a ch0!cet0 be made. The c0nst!tut!0nal r!ght t0 freed0m 0f rel!g!0n under Art!cle 25has !mpl!c!t w!th!n !t the ab!l!ty t0 ch00se a fa!th & the freed0m t0express 0r n0t express !t. These are s0me !llustrat!0ns 0f the manner !n wh!chthe pr!vacy fac!l!tates freed0m & !s !ntr!ns!c t0 the exerc!se 0f !nd!v!duall!berty. The C0nst!tut!0n d0es n0t c0nta!n a separate art!cle tell!ng us thatpr!vacy !s a fundamental r!ght. !t !s bas!cally a c0nst!tut!0nal value wh!ch m0vesacr0ss the spectrum 0f fundamental r!ghts & pr0tects the !nd!v!dual 0f h!sch0!ces & self-determ!nat!0n.
C0NCLUS!0NTh!s!s und0ubtedly a h!st0r!c & l&mark verd!ct 0f recent t!mes, & 0ne 0fthe m0st !mp0rtant c!v!l r!ghts judgment del!vered by the Supreme C0urt !n !tsh!st0ry. Apart fr0m aff!rm!ng the ex!stence 0f a fundamental r!ght t0 pr!vacyunder the !nd!an C0nst!tut!0n, the case w!ll have a huge !mpact 0n 0ur h!st0r!cal& c0nst!tut!0nal l&scape f0r years t0 c0me. !t w!ll hugely !mpact the !nterplaybetween pr!vacy & the freed0m 0f speech. !t w!ll als0 !mpact the Statesurve!llance, data c0llect!0n & data pr0tect!0n, LGTB r!ghts, the legal!ty 0ff00d bans, the legal framew0rk f0r regulat!ng art!f!c!al !ntell!gence, as wellas many 0ther !ssues wh!ch we cann0t f0resee 0r ant!c!pate. !t has been verywell sa!d by many teachers & sch0lars 0n the subject, that the full benef!t0f the judgment can 0nly be ascerta!ned when !t !s appl!ed t0 actual State act!0nsthat underm!ne pr!vacy. Adherence t0 c0nst!tut!0nal pr!nc!ple !s n0t just anacadem!c exerc!se, but requ!res a pr0tect!0n 0f real r!ghts & l!bert!es.
Thus,!t can be sa!d that the n!ne-judge bench has g!ven us an 0utst&!ng f0undat!0nf0r a pr0gress!ve c!v!l l!bert!es jur!sprudence, wh!ch !s l0cated !n the !deals0f l!berty, aut0n0my, d!gn!ty & pr!vacy. !n the t!mes t0 c0me, c!t!zens w!lll00k t0 the C0urt t0 bu!ld 0n that f0undat!0n & carry !t f0rward. !nfuture, the s!tuat!0ns that c0me bef0re the C0urt w!ll n0 l0nger be abstract, &the pressures w!ll be real rather than just academ!c.
& thus, !t can be sa!d!n c0nclus!0n that alth0ugh the effects 0f the judgment f0r the future can 0nlybe seen later as they cann0t be ant!c!pated, but the fact that the !nd!v!dualsr!ghts have been granted pr0tect!0n !n the case aga!nst the State cla!ms g!vesus a g00d cause f0r celebrat!0ns.