The Supreme Court ruling on ‘Right to Privacy’ highlighted several key facets of privacy including informational privacy in the digital age. The judgement urged the Government to quickly bring-in data protection law to ensure the privacy of citizens as there might be potential implications for data collected by firms in finance, e-commerce and app developers.
As stated in 'Right to Privacy' Judgement on data regulation that,
‘ The formulation of data protection is a complex exercise which needs to be undertaken by the State after a careful balancing of privacy concerns and legitimate State interests, including public benefit arising from scientific and historical research based on data collected and processed.’
It was also suggested to seek guidance from the European Union Regulation of 2016 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 April 2016 on the protection of natural persons for the purposes of processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data.
Also, the ruling specified that ‘the State must ensure that information is not used without the consent of users and that it is used for the purpose and to the extent, it was disclosed. Thus, for e.g., if the posting on social media websites is meant only for a certain audience, which is possible as per tools available, then it cannot be said that all and sundry in public have a right to somehow access that information and make use of it.’
The ruling also pushed enactment of ‘Privacy Act’ and its status is still awaited. This will be preceded by the Privacy Bill of the year of 2005 and there seem to be little progress on the matter.
The ruling mentions that , ‘It was only in the course of the hearing that we were presented with an office memorandum of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology dated 31.7.2017, through which a Committee of Experts had been constituted to deliberate on a data protection framework for India, under the Chairmanship of Mr. Justice B.N. Srikrishna, former Judge of the Supreme Court of India, in order to identify key data protection issues in India and recommend methods of addressing them.’
The nine judge bench of apex court gave historic verdict determining the issue of privacy ranging from – Aadhar, civil liberties, gay rights to use of personal data by e-commerce, financial, banks and other firms. Also, they got together to determine whether privacy is a constitutionally protected value or not.
The order of the court stated, ‘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’.
Right not absolute - restrictions imposed
As observed in earlier privacy cases, the apex court did not observe right to privacy as an absolute right. Falling in part III of the Constitution, Right to Privacy is dependent upon several variable factors and hence would be subject to certain restrictions on its exercise as the fundamental right. Judgement states, ‘National security would thus be an obvious restriction, so would the provisos to different fundamental rights, dependent on where the right to privacy would arise. The Public interest element would be another aspect.’
(Source: Supreme Court Judgement on 'Right to Privacy')