ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Exploring Privacy Within and Without

The Puttaswamy Judgment

The Supreme Court’s judgment in K Puttaswamy v Union of India (2017) presents a paradigm shift in the Court’s understanding of fundamental rights under the Constitution. While the right to privacy has been acknowledged in some form or the other since Gobind v State of Madhya Pradesh (1975), what the Puttaswamy judgment represents is a decisive development in the jurisprudence. Privacy is not just an aspect of existing fundamental rights or to be looked for in strained interpretational exercises; it is now accepted as a necessary component of fundamental rights as a whole. Fundamental rights jurisprudence—which moved from the straitjacket of A K Gopalan v State of Madras (1950), to tentative unloosening in R C Cooper v Union of India (1970), and later on to the “golden triangle” theory expounded in Maneka Gandhi v Union of India (1978)has become richer, deeper and more meaningful in light of the six opinions of the Supreme Court’s unanimous verdict in the Puttaswamy case.

The Puttaswamy judgment was delivered in the context of the challenges to the Aadhaar law and the use of the Aadhaar in multiple contexts. But, that should not be the only context in which the judgment is understood. It has come at a particular moment in India’s history; when the state’s reach into personal lives of citizens expands even as it withdraws from an active role in the economy; when migration is taking more and more people out of villages and into cities; and when the vast changes in technology and business practices have made individuals’ data such a lucrative commodity. All of these processes are happening simultaneously, bringing new and dizzying changes to the Indian polity; some for the better, some for the worse. The Supreme Court’s formulation in the Puttaswamy case can perhaps be seen as a lodestar to the state and citizens alike, to help make sense of their rights and duties in a rapidly changing and evolving situation.

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Updated On : 27th Dec, 2017
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