BY : SHRUTI SHARMA
Privacy is an undisputed and comprehensive right to every human which is bonded with their lives. The Right to Privacy is enshrined in our Constitution as a Fundamental Right under Article 21. The UN Declaration of Human Rights recognizes the Right to Privacy as a Fundamental Right. In India, the judicial precedents have also recognised the Right to Privacy as a requisite of the right to life and liberty. The scope of Article 21 is multi-dimensional among constitution law, law of tort, criminal laws as well as property laws.
According to the Black Law’s Dictionary, the meaning of the term ‘right to privacy’ means the ‘right of a person to be free from unwarranted interference’. The Indian judiciary has expanded the meaning of the same manifold. Through the landmark decision of the Apex Court in K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India, the right to privacy is now recognised as a fundamental right which is intrinsic in Article 21 of our constitution.
Since the 1960s, the right to privacy being a fundamental right has been a debate in the Indian Law as well as the Common Law. In 1954, through M.P. Sharma v. Satish Chandra, the eight judge bench decided that privacy was not a fundamental right. In Kharak Singh v. State of UP, the six judge bench of the Supreme Court decided that fundamental rights did not include the right to privacy. The court held that although privacy is an essential component of personal liberty but no such provision for the same was neither incorporated nor declared as a fundamental right under our Constitution.
The right to privacy won for the first time in Govind v. State of Madhya Pradesh and it was given recognition as personal liberty in the Constitution. Through the K.S. Puttaswamy judgment, the decision of the MP Sharma and Kharak Singh case was overruled, making the right to privacy amongst the Golden Trinity of the Part IIIrd of the Constitution. The nine judge bench unanimously concluded that Constitution guaranteed the Right to Privacy as an essential part of the right to privacy and personal liberty but only to a limited extend.
India implemented various data sharing and surveillance schemes post the Mumbai Terror Attacks of 2008 to increase public safety. This was done to tackle the crimes and terrorism. The Central Monitoring System has been created to centralize the interception of communication, data and enable law enforcement agency to access the same. Upon the implementation of the system, it was connected to the Telephone Call Interception System which helps the state to monitor voice calls, SMS, Fax, landline communications, video calls and other networks for communication. The same faced heavy criticism as being the violation of the right to privacy of the ordinary innocent citizens of the country.
The linkage of the Aadhar has also its fair share of criticism regarding the same. The Personal Data Bill 2018 provided for the establishment of Data Protection Authority to oversee activities that involve processing of data. It was felt to recognise the need to protect personal data under the fundamental right to privacy. There was also need to create a collective data that foster a free and fair digital economy was to be taken into consideration, respecting the information privacy of individuals, progress and their innovations.
A fresh plea was submitted before the Apex Court filed by three farmers to declare the process of updating the NPR as unconstitutional and void. The challenge against NPR was brought before the court through Section 14-A of the Citizenship Act, 1955 which was inserted through the amendment of 2004. It empowers the Central Government to compulsory register the citizens of India and issue a national identity card to every citizen. The same provision laid down the Citizenship (Registration of Citizens and Issue of the National Identity Cards) Rules, 2003. The petitioners claimed that these Rules are an ultra vires to the Article 21 which provides for the Right to Privacy as a Right to personal liberty. They also asserted that there was a lack of rational nexus for the implementation of these Rules.
The details required to be produced by the individuals for updating the NPR was reiterating the private information of the individuals. Relying upon the Right to Privacy judgment of the Supreme Court through the K.S. Puttaswamy case, the three tests of legality-need-proportionality must be justified to impede any person’s right to privacy which is also recognised as a fundamental right. The key argument was that the Central Government had not declared any reasonable need to update NPR for the NCR which is to be implemented across country together with the CAA. The said section did not provide the proportionate estimation and extent of the nexus for creating the NRC.
The meaning of term ‘doubtful citizen’ was also eventually challenged on the ground of being arbitrary in nature under the Rule 4(4) of the Rules of 2003. There was also no guideline within the meaning and interpretation of the provision regarding the classification of the doubtful citizens.
During the January 2020, the Supreme Court bench issued the notice to the Centre on the NPR NRC issue.