Many international treaties recognise privacy as a fundamental human right. It is crucial for preserving human dignity and serves as one of the founding principles of democracy, as it upholds one’s own and other people’s rights.
Privacy includes more than just the physical body and provides integrity, individual autonomy, data, voice, consent, objections, movements, thoughts, and reputation.
The Right to privacy refers to our ability to protect the space around us, which includes all we own, such as our bodies, homes, assets, ideas, feelings, secrets, identities, etc. Our privacy permits us to pick which portions of the area are accessible to others and to regulate the extent, method, and duration of the elements we choose to disclose.
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Right to Privacy in India
Article 21 of the Indian Constitution protects the Right to Privacy, which guarantees the Right to life and personal freedom. Laws governing property, criminal offenses, and torts acknowledge the Right to privacy.
Before the 2017 decision in the landmark case K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India, which deals with individual privacy, it was necessary to preserve privacy because it was not regarded as a fundamental right under the Indian Constitution. The Right to Privacy, however, has resulted from the Indian judiciary’s present carve-out of a distinct area regarding privacy and is now acknowledged as a fundamental right that is intrinsic under Article 21.
There are many privacy-related cases, but none support the idea that privacy should be considered a fundamental right. Only after the passing of the K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India case in 2017 did the Right to privacy receive the recognition it deserves. Being a flexible concept, the Right to privacy is included in many legislative acts and encompasses various aspects.
The B N Srikrishna Committee observed that any government serious about protecting a person’s data must aim for the common welfare of a free and just digital economy.
Privacy Bill, 2011
The Bill safeguards persons against identity theft, including financial and criminal identity theft. The Bill prohibits intercepting communication lines without a Secretary-level officer’s consent. Additionally, the data obtained must get within two months of the interception ending. It ensures that a Central Communication Interception Review Committee is established to review and analyze the interception orders made.
According to the Privacy Bill, no one whose place of business and data equipment is in India is allowed to disclose any personal information about another person without that person’s permission. Privacy Bill outlines establishing an Indian Data Protection Authority, which will monitor the growth of computer technology and data processing.
Also, the authority has the jurisdiction to look into any data breach and to make instructions to protect security interests.
A punishment of up to Rs. 5 Lacs may also be imposed on anyone found guilty of obtaining records or information about a person from a government official or agency under false pretenses.
Timeline Development of Privacy in India
In K.S. Puttaswami v. Union of India, the Indian Courts declared the Right to Privacy a fundamental right without attempting to define privacy. They can be divided into three phases to better comprehend privacy before Puttaswami’s judgment.
The first phase is often known as the ‘conservative phase.’ At that time, the judges in courts adhered to orthodox principles and thought the law should be applied strictly as written. Some horrifying judgments are made, such as in ADM Jabalpur v. Shiv Kant Shukla, which is sometimes referred to as “the darkest day of Indian democracy.”
The question of whether the Right to privacy is recognized under Article 21 of the Constitution was answered in negative by a majority of a six-judge bench in Kharak Singh v. the State of U.P. In this case, a person was charged for committing dacoity but was later released u/s 169 Cr.P.C. as there was no evidence against him. He stated that the importance of protecting one’s privacy against arbitrary police intrusion should apply to Indian and American homes and that physical infringements into someone’s private life would be worse for their physical well-being and health than restrictions on their movements.
In the second phase, R. Rajgopal v. State of Tamil Nadu, it appears that Auto Shankar, a prisoner convicted of six murders, wrote his autobiography while imprisoned and gave it to the petitioner’s magazine for publication. This historic decision was a turning point in advancing the Right to privacy.
As a result, the government banned the publishing, and their decision was challenged before the Supreme Court. The debate focused on the press’s freedom compared to Americans’ constitutional rights to privacy. The court went into great detail on the different aspects of the Right to privacy and stated that tort law is where the idea of the Right to privacy first appeared.
The third phase of this journey was the most difficult since the judiciary had the difficult duty of reconciling the Right to privacy with other recognised rights, including the Right to life, the right to dignity, and the right to information. During this stage, the Supreme Court limited the extent to which the Right to privacy may be asserted when challenged with other rights and carved out a few exceptions.
Different Aspects of Privacy in Society
Privacy and Person
The Indian legal system ensures the Right to life and protection from any force, fear, or infirmity. It also guarantees freedom of expression, which always implies privacy since no one may get forced to confess to anything or discuss their marriage. It ensures that an individual’s agreement must be freely given when necessary, making privacy extremely important to persons as individuals.
Home and Privacy
In most countries, the sanctity of the home is acknowledged as a right, and it is a place where people can retreat from the outside world, and nobody should feel threatened or on guard there. Therefore, the privacy of one’s house is sacred and must be maintained.
Privacy and Family
If privacy affects society in any way, it is on families, which are considered close relationships that can thrive if kept private. Family privacy is vital, from maintaining one’s financial condition to upholding one’s legal marriage.
Everyone treats and views their spouses as their confidants. If such privacy is not maintained between the spouses, an individual would have no one to confide in and eventually be left alone. As a result, the law protects all communication between husband and wife, which is necessary to make the world a better place to live.
Press and Privacy
It is sometimes referred to as the Fourth Estate and is the basis of any democracy. However, in non-democracies, press freedom is absolute. Although there is no law in the country requiring the fourth estate to respect people’s privacy, this is how it should operate ethically and morally.
Privacy and Gender
This right safeguards against the inaccurate disclosure of private information and the improper representation of gender. This right belongs to everyone, whether renowned or not, male or female.
This Right exists for women in the patriarchal society as well, even though they may be housewives, employees, corporate enthusiasts, vendors, or even a prostitute. The Right is extended to both genders, not just to men.
Privacy and Health
Protecting patient privacy is a top priority. A fiduciary relationship is one where there is mutual trust and confidence between the parties. It is the kind of relationship that exists between a doctor and a patient.
Each individual is free to share their medical history with anybody they choose or to keep it private. Nobody has the right to pry into another person’s personal or medical affairs, and a doctor ordered by a court to respect patient confidentiality has a moral and ethical obligation to do so.
Privacy and Data Protection
Because nobody wants their personal information to get leaked, privacy becomes even more crucial when it comes to data privacy. As a result, every government must prioritize protecting the data that has been kept about people’s families, jobs, health, and other things.
Privacy and Aadhar
With the Aadhar government program run by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a significant discussion concerning privacy emerged in our nation. In the Puttaswamy v. Union of India case, the petitioners contended that the program’s collection of biometric data and personal information violates their Right to privacy.
They claimed that Aadhar is a tool for widespread surveillance that compromises security and raises concerns about the possibility of sensitive data leaks online. All of this is a huge problem because this country does not have a study on cyber security architecture.
Privacy and Surveillance in India
The Indian government has recently established many departments and agencies to conduct surveillance in cyberspace (the online environment where communication between computers or networks occurs), on private messages, emails, cell phones, or social media platforms. India, the world’s fastest-developing nation, must enact strong policies and regulations to safeguard the I.T. sector and citizens’ privacy.
Governmental organisations like the National Intelligence Grid, Central Monitoring System, and others have been established for social media, cell phone, and internet surveillance.
Necessity for Privacy in Society
When discussing a person as an individual rather than a member of society, privacy is essential for some social and psychological reasons. As privacy is about protecting your space and respecting others, it encompasses many factors, starting with respect for people and reputation management.
Search and Seizure and the Right to Privacy
The Indian Constitution makes no explicit or implied reference to the Right to privacy, even though it is challenging to strictly categorise the many aspects of the intrinsic Right to privacy as non-interference, which may be distinct from the instrumental rights that criminal procedure seeks to protect (such as abuse of police power), is sorely lacking in legal recognition, even though courts have acknowledged the significance of procedural safeguards in preventing against unreasonable governmental interference.
The 1973 Code of Criminal Procedure contains the general law establishing the state’s Right to search for and seize evidence.
The Right to privacy is a feature of many legal systems that aim to prevent governmental and private actions that infringe on people’s privacy. More than 150 countries’ constitutions protect the Right to privacy.
In Justice KS Puttaswamy v. Union of India, the Supreme Court rendered a landmark decision upholding the constitutional Right to privacy. It declared that Part III of the Indian Constitution includes privacy as a fundamental right.
The court affirmed a person’s Right to data privacy in this judgment. It also ordered the creation of a special committee to investigate this issue as soon as possible and make recommendations for a data protection framework to support the Right. So, with right to privacy as the basic fundamental right, the citizens of the country enjoy their privacy along with stringent laws.
What is the Right to privacy?
The Right to privacy is protected by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution and guarantees the Right to life and personal freedom.
In India, is the Right to privacy a fundamental right?
In the 2017 Union of India case, the Supreme Court declared the Right to privacy a fundamental right.
What does a person's privacy mean?
The Right to privacy is a crucial element of human rights that supports equality before the law and freedom of association, speech, and ideas.
What issues are related to privacy?
These are a few of these issues: unauthorized secondary uses, increased profiling and surveillance of people, data misuse, false matches, non-matches, and system faults.
Why is the Right to privacy so important?
Privacy is essential because it allows us to choose who we share our thoughts and feelings with.