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AUGUST 25, 2017


Privacy is a fundamental right, declares SC

  • In a unanimous verdict, a nine-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday declared that privacy is intrinsic to life and liberty and an inherent part of the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution.
  • The court held that privacy is a natural right that inheres in human beings because they are human. The state does not bestow natural rights on citizens. Natural rights like privacy exist equally in all individuals, irrespective of class, strata, gender or orientation.

‘Core of human dignity’

  • “Privacy is the constitutional core of human dignity. Privacy ensures the fulfilment of dignity,” Justice D.Y. Chandrachud wrote.
  • The Centre had argued against the recognition of privacy as a fundamental right. It had assured the court that privacy would be protected through parliamentary statutes.But the court retorted that statutory laws “can be made and also unmade by a simple parliamentary majority.”
  • “The ruling party can, at will, do away with any or all of the protections contained in the statutes. Fundamental rights are rights citizens may enjoy despite the governments they elect,” Justice Rohinton F. Nariman explained in his separate judgment.
  • However, the court held that privacy is not an absolute right. The government can introduce a law which “intrudes” into privacy for public and legitimate state reasons. But a person can challenge this law in any of the constitutional courts of the land — the Supreme Court or the State High Courts — for violation of his fundamental right to privacy.

Constitutional firewall

  • “Fundamental rights are the only constitutional firewall to prevent state’s interference with those core freedoms constituting liberty of a human being. The right to privacy is certainly one of the core freedoms, which is to be defended. It is part of liberty within the meaning of that expression in Article 21,” Justice J. Chelameswar held in his concurring judgment.
  • Justice S.A. Bobde said the “first and natural home for a right of privacy is in Article 21 at the very heart of personal liberty and life itself”.
  • Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said privacy, dignity and personal liberty were parts of the same “tree of justice”.

Global significance

  • The nine-judge Bench’s judgment gains international significance as privacy enjoys a robust legal framework internationally, though India has remained circumspect. The judgment, if it declares privacy as a fundamental right, would finally reconcile Indian laws with the spirit of Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 and Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), 1966, which legally protects persons against the “arbitrary interference” with one’s privacy, family, home, correspondence, honour and reputation.


SC overrules Emergency-era habeas corpus verdict

  • Over 40 years after the Supreme Court’s darkest hour when it said citizens had no right to life and liberty during the Emergency period, a nine-judge Bench condemned the decision in the infamous ADM Jabalpur case, better known as the habeas corpus case, as “seriously flawed.”
  • The habeas corpus judgment in 1976 upheld the Congress government’s move to unlawfully detain citizens, including political rivals, during the Emergency years.


A victory for all citizens, say legal luminaries

  • Legal luminaries and experts hailed Thursday’s Supreme Court judgment as victory for common citizens which would have a far-reaching impact on almost all aspects of life.
  • Senior lawyer Sanjay Hegde said it was a watershed moment.
  • “I believe that this is the most significant judgment after Kesavananda Bharati case. With this judgment the court has overruled a lot of early disastrous decisions. [The] SC has broadly laid down the constitutional principle which every High Court should now take into account,” Mr. Hegde said.

Impact on surveillance

  • Another important implication was in terms of government surveillance. “The judgment will have wide ranging impact. It will control how and whether government can read our email, listen to phone calls, how our data is used. It will also bear on whether married women will have the right not to get raped in marriage, after all women’s right to bodily integrity is privacy of the body,” senior lawyer Karuna Nundy said.
  • “Right to privacy was earlier a common law which through today’s judgment has transformed into fundamental right. It has now been brought under the ambit of Section 19 and 21 of the Constitution,” he said.


Worried SC calls for robust data protection regime

  • The Supreme Court on Thursday urged the government to put in place a robust mechanism for data protection.
  • Noting that “informational privacy is a facet of the right to privacy”, a nine-judge Bench, led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar, said dangers to personal data originate not only from the government but also from private players.
  • “The dangers to privacy in an age of information can originate not only from the state but from non-state actors as well. We commend to the Union Government the need to examine and put into place a robust regime for data protection,” Justice D.Y. Chandrachud wrote.
  • The Office Memorandum of the Justice Srikrishna Committee notes that the “government is cognisant of the growing importance of data protection in India. The need to ensure growth of the digital economy while keeping personal data of citizens secure and protected is of utmost importance”.
  • The government has already indicated in the court that the committee would be framing a data protection Bill similar to the “technology-neutral” draft Privacy Bill submitted by an earlier expert committee led by former Delhi High Court Chief Justice A.P. Shah to the Planning Commission of India in 2012. No steps were taken on the recommendations of the Justice Shah Committee.


SC rips apart its 2014 ruling on Section 377

  • The nine-judge Bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday ripped apart its own judgment of 2014 upholding Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises consensual sexual acts of adults in private.
  • The Bench observed that the chilling effect of Section 377 “poses a grave danger to the unhindered fulfilment of one’s sexual orientation, as an element of privacy and dignity.”
  • In separate judgments, the Constitution Bench, led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar, concluded that the 2014 verdict by a two-judge Bench of the apex court pandered to a “majoritarian” view to deny turn down the LGBT community their inherent fundamental rights of life, personal liberty, equality and gender discrimination.

2014 judgment

  • The 2014 judgment’s view that “a miniscule fraction of the country’s population constitutes lesbians, gays, bisexuals or transgenders” was not a sustainable basis to deny the right to privacy, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud observed in his judgment.


Cloud seeding in Cauvery basin

  • With a Doppler radar, which has been taken on hire from the US for two months, being commissioned in Bengaluru, cloud seeding operations were conducted as far as the Cauvery river basin on Thursday.
  • Clouds which are growing in size are targeted and flares spray chemicals — sodium chloride, potassium chloride and silver iodide — which will condense smaller water particles into larger droplets that constitute rain.
  • Unlike on Wednesday, officials said the commissioning of the Doppler radar in Bengaluru helped identify ‘seedable’ clouds in the path of the flight.


The return of the Irrawaddy dolphin

  • The first sighting of the endangered Irrawaddy dolphins in the Rambha sector of Chilika lake in three decades has brought much cheer to nature lovers.

Authority’s move

  • The rare sighting of the endangered mammal earlier this week is a result of the Chilika Development Authority’s (CDA) removing illegal prawn enclosures from the vast lake waters leading to unhindered movement of the dolphins.
  • “The dolphins did not have free movement due to the presence of prawn enclosures. Their prey base had also been squeezed. They stopped coming to Rambha in recent decades. Rambha sector is one of extreme ends of Chilika. It was a very satisfying moment to spot them. If the dolphins can travel up to Rambha, their habitat will only get better in the coming days,” said Mr. Nanda.

Natural abode

  • According to the CDA, Chilika is the natural abode of the highly endangered Irrawaddy dolphin ( Orcaella brevirostris ). The total population of these animals in the world is estimated to be less than 7,500. Of these, the highest — 6,400 — was reported from Bangladesh. The population in Chilika is considered to be the highest single lagoonal population.
  • Chilika had registered a marginal drop in population of Irrawaddy dolphins from 144 in 2015 to 134 this year. Dolphins are usually seen in Satapada sector of the lake.

Unregulated boating

  • “Rambha is the ideal sector for dolphins to play, flock and mate because of the stillness of the water in the bay area. Dolphins had been under stress in Chilika due to unregulated boating by tourists as well as illegal prawn enclosures. Now, with enclosures being weeded out, the primary hurdle for dolphin movement has been taken care of. The enforcement of boating regulation as per the CDA will also be made stricter,” said Michael Peters, senior programme coordinator, WWF-India’s marine conservation unit in Odisha.
  • Chilika, known for its exquisite natural beauty, attracts many tourists because of its dolphin population.


NHRC notice to Chhattisgarh govt.

  • Taking suo motu cognisance of media reports, the National Human Rights Commission on Thursday issued a notice to the Chhattisgarh government over the deaths of four babies at a government-run hospital in Raipur allegedly due to the oxygen supply getting cut on Sunday night.


Govt. tweaks norms to boost UDAN

  • The Civil Aviation Ministry on Thursday announced increasing viability gap funding for helicopter operators, diluting exclusivity clause and relaxed other norms to facilitate more participation in its regional connectivity scheme, UDAN. The government announced that all 13 passenger seats for helicopters will be considered for subsidy under the scheme.
  • States including, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, North Eastern region, Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep islands have been designated as priority areas. Airline operators flying from these priority areas will be allowed to operate 14 weekly departures as against the limit for seven weekly flights for other routes.
  • The Ministry also abolished the 150-km minimum distance required between two airports to be qualified for operations under the scheme. It said airline operators may issue no-objection certificates to other airlines willing to operate on the same route.