From being a word that’s difficult to define in the Indian cultural context to being an elitist concept to finally becoming a legitimate debate in our courts, right to privacy has gone through its fair share of rigours. Finally, on 24 August 2017, the Supreme Court declared it a fundamental right under Article 21, Part III of the Constitution of India.
The landmark judgment has been much celebrated all over India as progressive and with the potential to arm the common man against unreasonable government and private intrusions. There has also been much debate around how the right will impact other laws in India which challenge the very principle of privacy. Here’s a look at how it may affect you, me and everyone else.
Do you still need an Aadhaar Card?
It’s true that the Supreme Court verdict declaring right to privacy as fundamental was a consequence of petitioners challenging the government’s move of making the Aadhaar Card mandatory.
Whether or not the Aadhaar Card should be made compulsory will be decided in a different hearing, where the Centre will have to prove why it is essential for it to collect people’s biometric and personal details. In the meantime, the right to privacy does give you some power to question the government, if you feel like your personal details have been divulged to a third party.
How safe is your data on the digital landscape?
The most popular text messaging app, WhatsApp, is currently embroiled in a legal battle for allegedly sharing chats with Facebook. One can easily question the legitimacy of this allegation, considering how much of our lives we share on social media platforms these days.
However, the recent ruling does entail that data protection is intrinsic to one’s right to privacy, which means that citizens can now potentially question how websites like Google, Facebook and WhatsApp handle your data.
The ruling will also pose a threat to targeted advertising, wherein sellers use your data and browsing pattern to show you certain ads. So, hopefully, you won’t have to worry about ads urging you to buy a ticket to the Red Planet popping on your screen, just because you Googled ‘Is there life on Mars?’
Is homosexuality still a criminal offence?
It really seemed like we were going backwards when in 2013, the Supreme Court set aside the Delhi High Court’s decision to strike down on Article 377, which criminalises “voluntary carnal intercourse against the order of nature”.
The Supreme Court’s recent ruling regarding right to privacy, however, challenges that judgment by posing a very pertinent question: If privacy is a fundamental right, how can the government or the court dictate what one does in one’s bedroom? This legal conundrum has urged the Supreme Court to take a fresh look at homosexuality. Let’s hope that this time around, better judgment prevails.
In spite of so many ifs and buts, right to privacy is being viewed as an essential move towards a more liberal and tolerant society—one of the biggest needs of the hour. Only time will tell whether our judicial system will manage to meet the hopes of those it is trying to protect.
Image Credit: Nikhil Mudaliar