Right to Privacy | 05 Jan 2022

For Prelims: K.S. Puttaswamy case, Article 21, Various dimensions of Right to privacy.

For Mains: K.S. Puttaswamy case, Right to privacy, Article 21, the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019.

Why in News

Recently, a Judge of the Madras High Court has said that a recent order passed by another judge of the same court, mandating the installation of CCTV cameras inside spas [massage and therapy centres], appears to run counter to the Supreme Court's landmark judgement in K.S. Puttaswamy case (2017).

  • In this case, the Supreme Court declared that the right to life and personal liberty guaranteed in Article 21 also implicitly includes a right to privacy.

Key Points

  • About:
    • Underlying Values: This right to privacy is seen as possessing:
      • Inherent value: It is important for every person’s basic dignity.
      • Instrumental value: It furthers a person’s ability to live life free of interference.
    • Forms of Right to Privacy: The privacy as guaranteed in Article 21 takes several different forms. It includes:
      • A right to bodily autonomy,
      • A right to informational privacy,
      • A right to a privacy of choice.
    • Right to Relax: Suspicion that immoral activities are taking place in spas cannot be a reason enough to intrude into an individual’s right to relax, for it intrinsically is part and parcel of his fundamental right to privacy.
      • Thus, the installation of CCTV equipment inside premises such as a spa would unquestionably go against a person’s bodily autonomy.
      • These are inviolable spaces where the prying eye of the State cannot be allowed to enter.
    • Doctrine of Separation of Powers: The reach of the fundamental rights cannot be curtailed by any judicial measure.
      • It held that, though no right can be absolute, restrictions can be put in place only by the legislature or the executive.
      • Apart from it, the Supreme Court alone can do so in exercise of its power under Article 142.

Right to Privacy

  • About:
    • Generally understood that privacy is synonymous with the right to be let alone.
    • The Supreme Court described privacy and its importance in the landmark decision of K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India in 2017.
    • The right to privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 and as a part of the freedoms guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution.
    • The Puttaswamy judgement holds that the right to privacy is protected as a fundamental constitutional right under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India.
  • Restrictions (as stated in the Judgement):
    • The right may be restricted only by state action that passes each of the three tests:
      • First, such state action must have a legislative mandate.
      • Second, it must be pursuing a legitimate state purpose, and
      • Third, it must be proportionate i.e., such state action- both in its nature and extent, must be necessary in a democratic society and the action ought to be the least intrusive of the available alternatives to accomplish the ends.
  • Step taken by Government: Acknowledging the importance of privacy, the Government has presented the personal Data Protection Bill 2019 in the Parliament.

Source: TH