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Landmark Judgement: Right to Privacy a ‘fundamental right’, rules Supreme Court

The Supreme Court’s nine-judge Bench, in a unanimous judgment on Thursday, upheld the Right to Privacy as a fundamental right, reported news agency ANI.

According to LiveLawIndia, the apex court said that privacy is protected under Article 21 and Part 3 of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court, according to ANI, overruled the M P Sharma (1962) and Kharak Singh (1954) judgments and held the Right to Privacy as a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

The verdict was given as soon as the nine-judge Constitution Bench of the apex court resumed the hearing on the case on Thursday morning. Following this, a five-judge constitutional Bench will decide whether Aadhaar violates the Right to Privacy or not, the news agency added.

The nine-judge Constitution Bench comprising Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, Justice J Chelameswar, Justice S A Bobde, Justice R K Agrawal, Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman, Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre, Justice D Y Chandrachud, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, and Justice S Abdul Nazeer had reserved the verdict on August 2 after hearing the matter for two weeks.

The hearing had commenced on July 19 and concluded on August 2.

The entire issue was rooted in a reference by a three-judge Bench that was hearing a challenge to the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar Scheme on the ground of its being violative of the fundamental right to privacy.

The petitioners included former Karnataka High Court Judge K S Puttaswamy, the first chairperson of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and Magsaysay awardee Shanta Sinha, feminist researcher Kalyani Sen Menon, and others.

However, the Centre contested their position citing two judgments of 1954 (by eight judges) and 1962 (by six judges), which had held the right to privacy as not a fundamental right.

The Centre had contended that though after the mid-seventies, several judgments by Benches with a strength of two or three judges had held that right to privacy was fundamental, it was the judgments of 1954 and 1962 by the larger benches that held ground.

It was in this background that the nine-judge Constitution bench heard the matter to examine the correctness or otherwise of the 1954 and 1962 judgments and the nature of the right to privacy – whether it is fundamental or not.

The hearing saw a partisan divide with the Centre and BJP-ruled Maharashtra and Gujarat contending that right to privacy was not a fundamental right and states and Union Territory ruled by the Congress – Karnataka, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Puducherry – and the TMC in West Bengal asserting that privacy was a fundamental right.

The Unique Identification Authority of India too said that privacy was not a fundamental right, there were sufficient safeguards to protect data collected from the people – their iris scans, and finger prints.

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