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9 judge bench delivered landmark judgement and unanimously declaring the Right to Privacy is fundamental right under constitution. SC has categorically held that Right to privacy will be protected as intrinsic part of Right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of constitution of India. It overruled the two earlier judgements of the apex court--the M P Sharma verdict of 1950 and that of Kharak Singh of 1960--that right to privacy is not protected under the Constitution.

The right to privacy is born with the human being and stays until death. Privacy is integral to the several fundamental rights recognised by the Constitution. The unity and integrity of the nation can only be ensured when the dignity of every citizen is guaranteed through privacy.Digital footprints and extensive data are valuable information, the use of such data to exercise control over the people is like the ‘big brother’ state exercised.

The ruling was to challenge the Centre's move to make Aadhaar mandatory for availing the benefits of various social welfare schemes. Aadhaar is a 12-digit number issued by the Indian government to its residents and it requires the resident's biometric and demographic information. Even though Aadhaar is voluntary, the government's move to make it mandatory for availing schemes has raised serious concerns. This judgment is expected to have direct effect on the government's plans for Aadhaar.

Centre’s stand on Aadhar Linkage

• Strongly backing the Aadhaar scheme, the Centre submitted that the right to life of millions of poor in the country through food, shelter and welfare measures was far more important than privacy concerns raised by the elite class.
• Privacy claims required better priority in developed countries “not in a country like India where a vast majority of citizens don’t have access to basic needs”.
• The government stated that after enrolling nearly 100 crore citizens spending an amount of Rs 6,300 crore, there was no going back.
• The right to privacy cannot be invoked to scrap the Aadhaar scheme.
• The Indian government argues that privacy concerns by private bodies should be viewed differently from those related to the government.

Traditionally, privacy has been understood in terms of surveillance by the state. Governments justify surveillance programmes by claiming that the information gathered about citizens would help in fighting terrorism and national security. But that comes at the cost of their privacy.

In recent years, private companies like Google and Facebook etc. are able to collect and store large volumes of data about their billions of users. Their business model relies on processing the troves of data and monetising the “free” service by selling advertisements. The right to privacy against private actors is founded on principles of contract law, most prominently involving notice and consent.

The personal information shared on these websites can be used to get phone numbers or credit cards in your name.The motive could be financial fraud or to take part in illegal activities. Further, acquired information can be used to manipulate an individual in ways that they don’t even know. Your data can be used to get you to buy something online, try to get you to act in a certain way or to believe in something in a particular way. For instance, targeted political advertising, where campaigners spend money to show separate content to people with differing political beliefs

Confidential data linked to Aadhaar and their bank details of 130 millions Indians leaked from government websites as of May 2017. Millions more remain vulnerable to more such breaches. Now the verdict on privacy will act as a deterrent for the government's mission.

The impact of judgement

Judgment makes clear that sexual orientation is part of privacy and constitutionally protected, and that the 2014 verdict upholding Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code is to be questioned. This opens up the case for reconsideration.
• As for Aadhaar, it is pertinent to note that the judges have referred to the restrictions and limitations that privacy would be subject to.The test to decide the validity of any such restriction is that it is reasonable based on fair procedure and free from arbitrariness or selective targeting or profiling.
• It can also be based on compelling state interest. This is where a cautionary note is in order. Courts exercising writ jurisdiction should be cautious about the nature of the relief they grant based on wide and open-ended claims of breach of privacy.

Source: The Hindu, India Today