“With great power comes great responsibility.”
The Supreme Court has every now and then lived up to this famous quote from Spider-man. And lately, it looks like the Supreme Court is on a MISSION MODE.
After Tuesday’s historical verdict invalidating triple talaq, the Supreme Court on Thursday pronounced that citizens have a fundamental right to privacy. A nine-judge bench headed by Chief Justice J.S. Khehar ruled that “right to privacy is an intrinsic part of Right to Life and Personal Liberty under Article 21 and entire Part III of the Constitution“. The verdict overturns two previous judgements by the top court which ruled that privacy was not a fundamental right.
While this is being regarded as a landmark judgement which might also negatively impact the government’s Aadhaar Push; the verdict does not expressly comment on whether the government’s demand for Aadhaar to be linked to all financial transactions amounts to an infringement of privacy.
The Supreme Court verdict is being touted as a huge setback for the government which has claimed that privacy is not an unchallengeable fundamental right guaranteed under the constitution.
But it’s essential for us to know that Supreme Court has also pointed out that
“Like other rights which form part of the fundamental freedoms protected by Part III, including the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21, privacy is not an absolute right.”
Few other extremely important aspects of Right to Privacy were pointed out by the Court in its 547-page judgement which might trigger wide-reaching implications on broader civil rights issues:
1. In the judgment, Supreme Court also criticized a previous ruling by the top court that reestablished a law criminalising homosexuality, saying that “discrimination against an individual on the basis of sexual orientation is deeply offensive to the dignity and self-worth of the individual”.
A decision on a petition against the law will be made later, it said.
This raises our hopes that Section 377 which ‘criminalises sexual activities “against the order of nature”, arguably including homosexual sexual activities’ may be on the cards after Right to Privacy judgement.
2. The statement is likely to provide a huge motivation to petitioners for LGBT rights in India.In his 44-page verdict Justice Chelameswar also points out
“An individual’s right to refuse life-prolonging medical treatment or terminate his/ her life is another freedom which falls within the zone of the right to privacy.”
This further stirs the debate on Euthanasia. This issue raised by the honorable judge is of huge significance if considered individually.
“A woman’s freedom of choice whether to bear a child or abort her pregnancy, are areas which fall in the realm of privacy.”
This line from the verdict will have further implications on the matters of Abortion and Surrogacy.
“Personal choices governing a way of life are intrinsic to privacy.”
3. Several widely debated legal issues like Marital Rape, Kerala Love Jihad case, a ban imposed on the consumption of beef in many states and alcohol in some could also come up for review.
Finally, we are getting to see real powers being put to use for doing some real good. I for one, feel particularly proud of the recent judgements given by our court.
I hope you do too.
Thank you, Supreme Court!