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RIGHT TO PRIVACY UNDER ARTICLE 21 OF THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION

Author: Muskaan Sharma, III year of B.A., LL.B. from Asian Law College


WHAT IS RIGHT TO PRIVACY? The definition of a right in keeping with the Merriam-Webster dictionary is the qualities (such as adherence to duty or obedience to lawful authority) that together constitute the ideal of {moral of ethical} propriety or benefit moral approval or one thing to that one encompasses a simply claim: like the ability or privilege to that one is justly entitled. And also that means of privacy in keeping with Black’s Law Dictionary, “right to be left alone; the right of someone to be free from any unwarranted publicity; the right to measure with none unwarranted interference by the public in matters with that the public isn’t essentially involved. As expressed in Article 21 of our constitution, “Protection of Life and Personal Liberty No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.” This has been assured by our constitution there wouldn’t be any hindrances in one’s life and personal liberty and that the interpretation of the word life could be a wide horizon which incorporates all the aspects that build life meaningful and apt for living. RIGHT TO PRIVACY IN INDIA Article 21 has been interpreted and reinterpreted the most due to the implicit statements, time and again. This has been done so because we are beings of a dynamic ever-changing society that changes its form, processes, theories and phenomenon. This arose as our society is never static which makes it vital for our constitution to walk hand in hand with the flow of life. The purpose of Article 21 has been interpreted with the moving course of life. Its ambition encompasses all things vital for lifelike freedom, dignity, shelter, privacy, survival, healthy environment and much more. One of the integral parts of Article 21 is Right to Privacy. This right does not exist separately but is always inferred under Article 21. There is no stated definition of the right to privacy which means it needs to be interpreted as it is thoroughly impactful on and associated with the citizens. As by the supreme court and with the general statements available, we can infer that it is a human right enjoyed by every human being under his or her existence. It also extends to other aspects like bodily integrity, personal autonomy, informational self-determination, protection from state surveillance, dignity, confidentiality, compelled speech and freedom to dissent or move or think. It legally protects the citizens against arbitrary interference with one’s privacy, family, home, correspondence, honour and reputation. This right has been developing from the last 60 years now and is considered to be the most consistent of all rights enshrined. The awaited declaration by the Supreme Court has declared the right to privacy as a fundamental right which is not to be articulated separately and becomes derivative from Articles 14, 19 and 21. Even after the above stated, this right is not absolute and is subject to a few reasonable restrictions that the state can impose to protect the public interest at large. The privacy of a particular individual is the responsibility of the government of the country and one is free to protect it. CASES CONCERNING RIGHT TO PRIVACY 1.K.S. Puttaswamy V. Union of India In the case of K. S. Puttaswamy v Union of India, the nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court unanimously recognized that the Constitution is the right to the correct to Privacy as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty underneath Article 21. 2.Smt. Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India &Anr 1978 In the case of Smt. Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India & Anr 1978, the 7 judge bench of Supreme court stated that personal liberty enshrined in Article 21 covers a variety of rights and some have the status of fundamental rights and given additional protection under the article 19. Triple test of any law interfering with personal liberty (1) It must prescribe a procedure, (2) The procedure must withstand the test of one or more fundamental rights under Article 19 which may be applicable in a given situation and (3) It must withstand the test of Article 21. The law and procedure authorizing interference with personal liberty and right to privacy must be right, just and fair and not arbitrary, fanciful and oppressive. 3 Kharak Singh v. State of UP(1962) In the case of Kharak Singh v. State of UP (1962), it was declared that a minority opinion recognized the right to privacy as a fundamental right. The minority judges aforementioned that right to privacy was each the right to private liberty and freedom of movement as well. 4.Govind v. State of M.P. (1975) In the case of Govind v. State of MP(1975), the SC confirmed that the right to privacy is a fundamental right. The right was aforementioned to incorporate and protect personal intimacies of the house, marriage, family, motherhood, etc. however it additionally discovered that it was subject to “compelling state subject”. FEW ASPECTS REGARDING RIGHT TO PRIVACY 1.Phone Tapping and Right to Privacy Phone tapping and right to privacy is suffering from new technological developments concerning a person’s correspondence and hence has become a debating issue. In R.M. Malkani v. State of Maharashtra, the Supreme Court observed that the Court will not tolerate safeguards for the protection of the citizen to be imperilled by permitting the police to proceed by unlawful or irregular methods. Telephone tapping is a foray of right to privacy and freedom of expression and also the government cannot impose restrictions on publishing defamatory materials against its officials that make it violate Article 21 and Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution. As per the observation made by Justice Kuldip Singh in the case of People's Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India that the right to hold a telephone conversation in the privacy of one’s home or office without interference can certainly be claimed as the right to privacy. In this case, the Supreme Court held that telephonic conversations are private and hence phone tapping amounts to a violation of one’s privacy. 2.Gender Priority on Privacy Another aspect of the right to privacy includes gender priority that suggests not merely the prevention of the wrong portrayal of personal life but the proper to stop it being depicted in the least. Even a lady of easy virtue is entitled to privacy and nobody has the right to invade her privacy. Every female has the essential right to be treated with decency and proper dignity. But just in case of Harvinder Kaur v. Harmander Singh, the Delhi supreme court held that though sexual intercourse constitutes the most vital attribute of the concept of marriage, they do not constitute its whole content. Sexual activity is one among the weather but goes to form up the wedding. 3. Health and privacy The health sector is a crucial matter of concern in privacy, and also, one among the main aspects of the right to privacy. Health information not only includes information about the health or disability, but also the knowledge associated with health service one may receive. It’s a human tendency that health information is considered highly sensitive by many people. The right to life is so important that it supersedes the right to privacy. A doctor is under an oath or medical ethics for not to disclose the key information about the patient because the disclosure will adversely affect or put in danger the life of other people[25]. In the case of Mr.X v. Hospital Z, it has been held that doctor-patient relationship though basically commercial, is professionally a matter of confidence and thus, doctors are morally and ethically sure to maintain confidentiality. Public disclosure of facts in such a situation may lead to the spar of one person’s right to be let alone and the other person’s right to be informed. CONCLUSION Right to privacy may be a requisite of right to life and private liberty under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Right to privacy isn’t an absolute right, it’s going to be subject to certain reasonable restrictions for the prevention of crime, public disorder and protection of others but, it may, apart from contract, also arise out of a selected relationship which will be commercial, matrimonial or maybe political and also where there’s a conflict between these two derived rights, the one, which advances public morality and public interest, will prevail. Considering ourselves a neighbourhood of society, we frequently countermand that we are individuals first, and during this world, each and every person or individual needs his/her private space. So to give each person who is right, the State accordingly is giving those private moments to be enjoyed with those whom they need without the prying eyes of the rest of the world. As every day is advancing, this right is becoming more and more essential. With all our lives being exposed to the media through social networking sites or the spy cameras, the protection is to tend to everyone and it should act in such a fashion that nobody should think to intrude the privacy of the individuals.