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Justice K.S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India (2017)

Justice K.S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India (2017)

Introduction

  • On 24th August 2017, a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court in Justice K.S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India passed a historic judgment affirming the constitutional right to privacy.
  • It declared privacy to be an integral component of Part III of the Constitution of India, which lays down our fundamental rights, ranging from rights relating to equality (Articles 14 to 18); freedom of speech and expression (Article 19(1)(a)); freedom of movement (Article 19(1)(d)); protection of life and personal liberty (Article 21) and others.
  • These fundamental rights cannot be given or taken away by law, and all laws and executive actions must abide by them. Justice K.S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India (2017)

Background | Justice K.S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India (2017)

  • In 2012, Justice K S Puttaswamy, a retired judge of the High Court, filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar scheme introduced by the UPA Government.
  • On 11th August 2015, a Bench of three judges comprising Justices Chelameswar, Bobde, and C. Nagappan passed an order that a Bench of appropriate strength must examine the correctness of the decisions in M P Sharma v Satish Chandra, District Magistrate, Delhi, 1954 (8 Judge Bench) and Kharak Singh v State of Uttar Pradesh, 1964 (6 Judge Bench). In particular it ordered that the Court must decide whether we have a fundamental right to privacy. Justice K.S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India (2017)
  • This matter was first placed before a 5 Judge Bench headed by the then Chief Justice Khehar. Subsequently, the matter was referred to a 9 Judge Bench on 18th July 2017. The Bench comprised Chief Justice Khehar and Justices Jasti Chelameswar, S.A. Bobde, DY Chandrachud, Abdul Nazeer, Nariman, R.K. Agarwal, Abhay Manohar Sapre, and Sanjay Kishan Kaul. Arguments began on 19th July 2017 and concluded on 2nd August 2017.    Justice K.S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India (2017)

Judgement | Justice K.S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India (2017)

  • In a historic decision delivered on 24th August 2017, the Bench unanimously recognised a fundamental right to privacy of every individual guaranteed by the Constitution, within Article 21 in particular and Part III on the whole. The decisions in M.P. Sharma and Kharak Singh were overruled.        Justice K.S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India (2017)
  • The judgment says:
    • “Life and personal liberty are inalienable rights. These are rights which are inseparable from a dignified human existence.  The dignity of the individual, equality between human beings and the quest for liberty are the foundational pillars of the Indian constitution…
    • Life and personal liberty are not creations of the constitution. These rights are recognised by the constitution as inhering in each individual as an intrinsic and inseparable part of the human element which dwells within.” Justice K.S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India (2017)
  • Since the 2017 judgment, the fundamental right to privacy has been cited as precedent in various landmark judgments, such as the Navtej Johar and Joseph Shine judgments

Conclusion | Justice K.S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India (2017)

  • The Court’s broad interpretation of the right to privacy has paved the way for a wide range of claims. While the exact boundaries of the right will continue to develop on a case by case basis, it is clear that privacy claims will often have to be weighed against other competing interests. Justice K.S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India (2017)
  • In the absence of a defined hierarchy among the various rights guaranteed under Part III of the Constitution, the decision in each case will vary based on facts at hand and the judicial interpretation.      Justice K.S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India (2017)

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