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Right to Privacy

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What is Right to Privacy?

In a landmark decision on August 24, 2017, the Supreme Court of India declared the right to privacy act to be a fundamental right protected by the Indian Constitution. The Court's decision, holding that this right comes from the fundamental right to life and liberty, has far-reaching consequences. Here, we are going to discuss the right to privacy article, and know if the right to privacy is a fundamental right or not. 

Right to Privacy: Historical Background

In India, the right to privacy has evolved over the last 60 years as a result of a number of judgements. Inconsistency from two early judgements has led to a split in judgement over whether the right to privacy is a basic right over the years. Constitutional provisions must be evaluated and interpreted in a way that ensures their conformity with international human rights treaties that India has ratified. Privacy is also a fundamental requirement for the meaningful exercise of other guaranteed freedoms, according to the court.

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Cases that Cast Doubts on the Right to Privacy

In 2012, retired Justice K.S. Puttaswamy filed a case in the Supreme Court questioning Aadhaar's legitimacy, claiming that it infringes on the right to privacy. During the hearings, the central government argued that privacy should not be classified as a fundamental right. The government's objection to the right was based on two early Supreme Court decisions, MP Sharma Vs Satish Chandra in 1954 and Kharak Singh Vs State of Uttar Pradesh in 1962, which concluded that privacy was not a fundamental right.

Privacy is commonly understood to be equivalent to the right to be left alone.

In the landmark case of K.S. Puttaswamy Vs Union of India in 2017, the Supreme Court stated that "the right to privacy is a fundamental and inalienable right that attaches to the person and includes all information about that person and the decisions that he or she makes.". Article 21 protects the right to privacy as an integral part of the right to life and personal liberty, as well as the freedoms provided by Part III of the Constitution.

People are legally protected against "arbitrary interference" with their privacy, family, home, correspondence, honour, and reputation under Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, and Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), 1966. On April 10, 1979, India became a signatory. Respect for private and family life, as well as for one's home and communications, is also recognized by the European Union. The Data Protection Directive, which specifies how information can be handled and used in Europe, addresses this.

Key Elements in Right to Privacy 

The key points of the judgement are summarized below.

(a) Right to Privacy is a Fundamental Right

The Supreme Court confirmed that the right to privacy is a fundamental right that can be drawn from Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Indian Constitution without having to be stated separately. It is a natural right that is linked with the rights to life and liberty. It is a fundamental and inalienable right that attaches to a person and includes all information about that person as well as the decisions he or she takes. It protects a person from surveillance in their homes, over their movements, and over their personal choices, partners, and eating habits, among other things.

(b) It is Not an Absolute Right; it is Subject to Reasonable Limitations.

The Supreme Court was careful to point out that the fundamental right to privacy is not absolute, and that it will always be subject to reasonable limitations. It was held that the state can limit the right to privacy to defend legitimate state interests.

(c) Other Incidental Implications

This right to privacy may have other implications on subjects related to the main issue decided by the court. It has also acknowledged the impact that non-state actors can have on human privacy, particularly in the context of digital informational privacy. While fundamental rights are often only enforced against government actions, given the judge’s broad language and the extent to which informational privacy has been mentioned, some experts are concerned that these principles will be extended to the private sector as well.

Government Steps to Protect Privacy

  • Draft Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 regulates how government and private organizations in India and overseas process the personal data of individuals. If the individual gives consent, or if there is a medical emergency, or if the state is giving benefits, the processing is permitted.

  • Committee chaired by B. N. Srikrishna: Under the chairmanship of Justice B. N. Srikrishna, the government created a committee of experts on data protection, which submitted its report in July 2018.

  • The Information Technology Act 2000 (IT Act) establishes protections against certain data breaches from computer systems. It includes precautions to prevent unwanted access to computer systems and data stored on them.


Only state action that passes each of the three tests can limit the right. First, such state action must have a legislative mandate; second, it must be pursuing a legitimate state objective; and third, it must be proportionate, i.e., such state action must be necessary for a democratic society, both in nature and scope, and the action should be the least intrusive of the available options to achieve the goals. It is important to go through the right to privacy judgement PDF for a clear understanding of this right. 

The right to privacy is a legal principle that has been used in numerous legal frameworks to limit government and private actions that encroach on people's privacy. The right to privacy is mentioned in over 150 national constitutions. The right to privacy act is now being questioned as to whether it can coexist with intelligence agencies' existing capacity to access and analyze practically every part of an individual's life.

Last updated date: 23rd Sep 2023
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FAQs on Right to Privacy

1. What is Right to Privacy?

Ans: There is no clear definition of the term "privacy". Some experts believe that privacy is a human right that every human being has simply by being alive. In short, the right to privacy must be evaluated on an individual basis.

2. When did the Right to privacy of the Indian constitution come into existence?

Ans: On August 24, 2017, a nine-judge Supreme Court panel led by Chief Justice J. S. Khehar decided that the Right to Privacy is a fundamental right for Indian citizens under the Indian Constitution.

3. What is Article 21 Right to Privacy?

Ans: It is our constitution's most organic and progressive provision. Article 21 can only be invoked when a person’s life or 'personal liberty' is taken away by the 'State', as defined in Article 12. As a result, private individuals' breaches of the right are not covered by Article 21.