CIVIL

Right to privacy

Right to privacy is also not expressly guaranteed under the Constitution of India. However, the Privacy Bill, 2011 to provide for the right to privacy to citizens of India and to regulate the collection, maintenance and dissemination of their personal information and for penalization for violation of such rights and matters connected therewith, is pending. In several judgments including Kharak Singh Vs. The State of U.P. and Others, , R. Rajagopal alias R.R. Gopal and Another Vs. State of Tamil Nadu and Others, , People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) Vs. Union of India (UOI) and Another, and State of Maharashtra Vs. Bharat Shanti Lal Shah and Others, this Court has recognized the right to privacy as a fundamental right emanating from Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Right to privacy is also recognized as a basic human right under Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Act, 1948, which states as follows:

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, not to attack upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of law against such interference or attacks.

Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Act, 1966, to which India is a party also protects that right and states as follows:

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home and correspondence nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation…

This Court in R. Rajagopal (supra) held as follows:

The right to privacy is implicit in the right to life and liberty guaranteed to the citizens of this country by Article 21. It is a “right to be let alone”. A citizen has a right to safeguard the privacy of his own, his family, marriage, procreation, motherhood, child bearing and education among other matters.

Restrictions and Limitations:

Right to information and Right to privacy are, therefore, not absolute rights, both the rights, one of which falls under Article 19(1)(a) and the other under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, can obviously be regulated, restricted and curtailed in the larger public interest. Absolute or uncontrolled individual rights do not and cannot exist in any modern State. Citizens’ right to get information is statutorily recognized by the RTI Act, but at the same time limitations are also provided in the Act itself, which is discernible from the Preamble and other provisions of the Act. First of all, the scope and ambit of the expression “public authority” has been restricted by a statutory definition u/s 2(h) limiting it to the categories mentioned therein which exhaust itself, unless the context otherwise requires. Citizens, as already indicated by us, have a right to get information, but can have access only to the information “held” and under the “control of public authorities”, with limitations. If the information is not statutorily accessible by a public authority, as defined in Section 2(h) of the Act, evidently, those information will not be under the “control of the public authority”. Resultantly, it will not be possible for the citizens to secure access to those information which are not under the control of the public authority. Citizens, in that event, can always claim a right to privacy, the right of a citizen to access information should be respected, so also a citizen’s right to privacy.

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