Government Claims It Backed Privacy As Fundamental Right - With Limits

Right to privacy: Ravi Shankar Prasad read from the judgments of the different judges on the Supreme Court bench to underscore that they acknowledged privacy "is not an absolute right, it must be subject to some reasonable restrictions."


Ravi Shankar Prasad said the government's view is consistent that right to privacy should be fundamental.

New Delhi: 


  1. Government's view consistent that right to privacy should be fundamental
  2. Right to privacy "subject to some reasonable restrictions": Law Minister
  3. Backed Right to privacy while moving Aadhaar Bill in 2016: RS Prasad
The government welcomes the Supreme Court's verdict that privacy is a fundamental right, said Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad today, asserting that the judgment by a nine-member bench affirms the government's position. It was the first government response to what critics have called a massive setback for it after it argued in court that the constitution does not guarantee individual privacy as an inalienable fundamental right.

But Mr Prasad said the government's view is consistent that right to privacy should be fundamental, also reading from the different judgments - the judges gave six different judgments though they were unanimous on privacy being a fundamental right - to underscore that they acknowledged privacy "is not an absolute right, it must be subject to some reasonable restrictions."

Mr Prasad said much before the creation of the nine-judge bench, then law minister Arun Jaitley had told parliament while moving an Aadhaar Bill that "right to privacy is fundamental, flowing from Article 21, subject to reasonable restrictions."  

Arun Jaitley, who is the minister for Finance and Defence, said, "On 16 March 2016, when I replied in parliament to the Aadhaar debate, my statement was that it is too late to contend that privacy is not a fundamental right. So we had made this law with safeguards to ensure that privacy as fundamental right will be respected."

Mukul Rohatgi, who was the government's lawyer in the case as Attorney General earlier this year, told NDTV, "You are right that it was argued by the government that it (privacy) was not a fundamental right.

In May, Mr Rohatgi had rejected suggestions that Indians could refuse to provide their iris scans or fingerprints to the government for Aadhaar data, telling court "the concept of absolute right over one's body was a myth".

Today's judgement "is a blow to the government, because the government had argued that people do not have a right to privacy," said senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who is involved in a large multi-party case against the mandatory use of Aadhaar identity cards for essential services like income tax returns and operating bank accounts as an infringement of privacy.

There have also been concerns over breaches of data. The Aadhaar database links iris scans and fingerprints to more than a billion people.

The government has said the Aadhaar programme poses no threat to civil liberties.

"These matters went to court because the (Congress-led) UPA government brought about Aadhaar without a law. There were no safeguards put in by UPA as to how the data would be protected or how the data will be used. So people challenged it saying how will you collect it, what will you do with it, what are the privacy clauses in it," said Mr Jaitley, adding that it was the BJP government that brought an Aadhaar legislation with special provisions on privacy. "Any person who violates it is liable for punishment," he said.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi has described today's Supreme Court judgement as a "blow on unbridled encroachment" by the government. She said the Congress and other opposition parties had spoken in parliament "for the right to privacy and dignity of all Indians against the arrogant attempts of the present government to curtail them."

"People from the Congress have been attacking us, the Left has joined them too. I would like to know what has been the Congress' record when it comes to protecting individual liberties?" said Ravi Shankar Prasad. He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government is "led by leaders who have fought for individual liberties during Emergency."

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