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Right to Privacy in India

Right to Privacy

The concept of Right to Privacy is all about safeguarding an individual’s privacy, even though it isn’t expressly stated in the Constitution. A significant moment arrived when a nine-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court made a unanimous and landmark decision, officially recognizing the right to privacy as a fundamental right within the constitution. This decision effectively overturned two previous Supreme Court judgments in the MP Sharma case (1954) and the Kharak Singh case (1961).

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What is Right to Privacy?

On August 24, 2017, a historic ruling by the Supreme Court of India recognized the right to privacy as a fundamental right safeguarded by the Indian Constitution. This landmark judgment established that this right is an integral part of our fundamental rights to life and liberty. In this article, we will delve into the concept of the right to privacy and explore whether it is indeed considered a fundamental right in India.

Cases that Cast Doubts on the Right to Privacy

In 2012, retired Justice K.S. Puttaswamy raised concerns in the Supreme Court regarding the validity of Aadhaar, arguing that it violates the right to privacy. The government contended that privacy should not be deemed a fundamental right, citing earlier Supreme Court cases, MP Sharma Vs Satish Chandra in 1954 and Kharak Singh Vs State of Uttar Pradesh in 1962, which had denied privacy as a fundamental right. The definition of privacy often relates to the right to be free from interference. However, in the landmark 2017 case of K.S. Puttaswamy Vs Union of India, the Supreme Court declared that the right to privacy is indeed fundamental.

It is protected by Article 21, encompassing the right to life, personal liberty, and other constitutional freedoms. Additionally, international agreements like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR, 1966) safeguard individuals from unwarranted intrusion into their privacy, family, home, and more. India signed the ICCPR in 1979. The European Union also acknowledges the importance of private and family life, as well as the protection of personal data, through the Data Protection Directive.

SC Judgement

  • The highest court in India has firmly established that the right to privacy is an integral part of the Right to Life and Personal Liberty, as outlined in Article 21 of the Constitution.
  • This landmark ruling also expresses concerns about the potential misuse of personal information when it becomes publicly accessible.
  • Notably, the Supreme Court of India’s decision holds international significance, aligning Indian laws with the principles laid out in Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from 1948 and Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights from 1966. These provisions legally safeguard individuals from unwarranted intrusion into their privacy, dignity, reputation, family life, home, and personal correspondence.


  • This will ensure the dignity of the individual as mentioned in our Preamble.
  • It will impose restrictions on the government when it tries encroach our privacy.
  • It will also give impetus to the Right to personal liberty, under Article 21 of the Constitution.


  • Privacy rights can potentially pose challenges to the successful execution of beneficial welfare programs, such as Aadhar and Direct Benefits Transfer, which rely on citizens’ personal data. These programs play a crucial role in identifying marginalized groups and ensuring efficient implementation by preventing unauthorized access.
  • Furthermore, the Right to Privacy could limit the ability of law enforcement and intelligence agencies to gather private information concerning individuals, including suspects and deceased individuals, as outlined in the DNA Profiling bill.

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 of India has affirmed that the right to privacy is a fundamental right under the Indian Constitution, derived from Articles 14, 19, and 21. It’s considered a natural right associated with the rights to life and liberty, encompassing personal information and decisions. This right shields individuals from unwarranted intrusion into their homes, movements, personal choices, relationships, and even dietary preferences.

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

The Supreme Court emphasized that while the right to privacy is essential, it’s not an absolute right. This means there can be reasonable restrictions placed on it when necessary to protect important state interests.

(c) Other Incidental Implications

The concept of the right to privacy might have additional consequences for matters related to the central court decision. The court has also recognized how non-government entities can affect individuals’ privacy, especially concerning digital information privacy. Although fundamental rights are usually applied to government actions, the judge’s inclusive language and the frequent mention of informational privacy raise concerns among some experts that these principles might also be applied to private businesses.

Government Steps to Protect Privacy

  1. The Personal Data Protection Bill of 2019 is a significant regulation in India that oversees how both government and private entities, both in India and abroad, handle the personal data of individuals. Processing of this data is allowed if the individual provides consent, during medical emergencies, or when the state is providing benefits.
  2. Committee Led by Justice B. N. Srikrishna: Justice B. N. Srikrishna chaired a committee of experts on data protection, and their report was submitted in July 2018. This committee played a pivotal role in shaping data protection policies in India.
  3. Safeguarding Data Under the IT Act 2000: The Information Technology Act of 2000 (IT Act) provides essential protections against data breaches originating from computer systems. It sets up safeguards to prevent unauthorized access to computer systems and the data they contain.

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