Privacy Order Reflects Our View, Said Government. Its Ex-Lawyer Differs

Former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told NDTV that he had argued before the Supreme Court that privacy could not be considered a fundamental right.

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Ravi Shankar Prasad said Supreme Court verdict on privacy was a reaffirmation of government's position

NEW DELHI: Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday pitched the Supreme Court's verdict that privacy is a fundamental right as a reaffirmation of the government's position. He dismissed a suggestion that the government was opposed to privacy being made a fundamental right and brushed aside sticky arguments made by the government earlier as courtroom "banter".

But he was soon contradicted by the government's former top law officer.

Former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told NDTV that he had argued before the top court against treating privacy as a fundamental right. Mr Rohatgi, who had represented the government in the top court till June this year, said the government had argued before the top court that privacy "is not a fundamental right but a regular common law right".

That privacy wasn't a fundamental right was a point that Mr Rohatgi has been making in the court on the government's behalf from 2015. This is when he cited divergent verdicts in the past and persuaded the top court to get a constitution bench to take a call.

He, however, quit the top law officer's post before the nine-judge bench was set up to hear the privacy case in July.

"As far as I am concerned, I told you that I had taken a position, that what the eight-judge bench had said (that the Indian constitution did not have a concept of privacy) ... That is the point that I had raised," he said.

He added that the government had toned down this stand. "Later, the government in the court agreed to kind of bring it (privacy) to a slightly different plane, by admitting it to be some kind of a right," he told NDTV.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley also welcomed the Supreme Court ruling later, but steered clear of the government's stand in the court. Instead, he targeted the previous Congress government for not enacting a law when it started issuing the 12-digit unique identification numbers.

"No safeguards were put by the UPA as to how data would be protected or the data could be used. So people challenged it saying," Mr Jaitley said.

But the Congress held on to the law minister's attempt to play down the government's stand in the court. Congress leader and former law minister Kapil Sibal said it was "unfortunate" that the law minister's statement was completely contrary to the law officer's arguments in the court.ormer

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