Right to Privacy: Bench by Bench, a right discussed and interpreted (2024)

Right to Privacy: Bench by Bench, a right discussed and interpreted (1) In the A K Gopalan case of 1950, the Supreme Court said Articles 19 and 21 were mutually exclusive — the seven freedoms of Article 19 were not subsumed in the fabric of life or personal liberty in Article 21.

Before a nine-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court unanimously declared the right to privacy a fundamental one, the court had taken up the subject many times over the last several decades. While two major verdicts had rejected right to privacy as a fundamental right, several benches had stressed that right. One of these two verdicts was by an eight-judge bench in M P Sharma vs Satish Chandra in 1954 — a judgment subsequently not followed even by several smaller benches. Then in 1964, a six-judge bench ruling on the Kharak Singh case, too, rejected the right to privacy as a fundamental right. Some subsequent benches, however, interpreted that judgment differently.

In PUCL vs Union of India (1997), a case in which the petitioner challenged the constitutional validity of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, Justice Kuldip Singh referred to the Kharak Singh case: “Article 21 of the Constitution has, therefore, been interpreted by all the learned judges in Kharak Singh’s case (majority and the minority opinions) to include that ‘right to privacy’ is a part of the right to ‘protection of life and personal liberty’.” This, when the majority judgment in the Kharak Singh case had noted that “the right of privacy is not a guaranteed right under our Constitution.” Thursday’s ruling underlined this interpretation by other benches of the ruling in the Kharak Singh case

Relation between rights

A key issue discussed was the overlapping and complementary character of fundamental rights. In the A K Gopalan case of 1950, the Supreme Court said Articles 19 and 21 were mutually exclusive — the seven freedoms of Article 19 were not subsumed in the fabric of life or personal liberty in Article 21. In subsequent cases, however, the court said these rights complement each other; the new doctrine was firmly established by an 11-judge bench in R C Cooper vs Union of India. Subsequently, the Supreme Court ruled that the expression “personal liberty” in Article 21 covers a variety of rights, some of which “have been raised to the status of distinct fundamental rights” and given additional protection under Article 19. The right to privacy falls under both articles.

“The right to privacy,” Justice D Y Chandrachud wrote on behalf of four judges in the bench Thursday, emanates “from the liberties guaranteed by Article 19 and from the protection of life and personal liberty under Article 21.” Justice A M Sapre noted that the right to privacy emanates from the Preamble, that is “liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship” and “Fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual”, freedoms enshrined under Article 19 and personal liberty under Article 21.

What is privacy

In the PUCL case, the court held that the right to hold a telephone conversation in the privacy of one’s home or office without interference falls under “right to privacy”. In State of Karnataka v Krishnappa, the court expanded the doctrine to include sexual offences against women. “Sexual violence apart from being. dehumanising. is an unlawful intrusion of the right to privacy and sanctity,” it ruled.

In Sharda v Dharmpal, the appellant and respondent were spouses and divorce was sought on medical grounds but the respondent did not want to undergo a medical test. “If the respondent avoids such medical examination on the ground that it violates his/her right to privacy… it may render the very grounds on which divorce is permissible,” the court said. In Suchita Srivastava v Chandigarh Administration, a woman was allegedly raped when she was in a government welfare institution, and had become pregnant. The HC ordered that her pregnancy be terminated but she wanted the child. The SC allowed her to exercise her choice as that “a woman’s right to privacy, dignity and bodily integrity should be respected”.

In Selvi vs State of Karnataka, the court noted that right to privacy is enshrined in Article 20(3), the right against self-incrimination. “The “right to privacy’ should account for its intersection with Article 20(3),” it said. In Ram Jethmalani v Union of India, a division bench dealt with a PIL on unaccounted money. The court held that the revelation of bank account details without a prima facie ground of wrongdoing would be a violation of the account-holders’ right to privacy.

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In Lillu vs State of Haryana, the Supreme Court emphasised the right of rape survivors to privacy, physical and mental integrity and dignity. And Thursday, Justice J Chelameswar noted that the right to travel freely within the country or go abroad falls within the right of privacy. “The freedom to choose either to work or not and the freedom to choose the nature of the work are areas of private decision making process,” he wrote, adding that the “choice of appearance and apparel are also aspects of the right of privacy”.

Justice S A Bobde delved into ancient and religious texts: “A woman ought not to be seen by a male stranger seems to be a well-established rule in the Ramayana,” he wrote, adding that “Grihya Sutras prescribe the manner in which one ought to build one’s house in order to protect the privacy of its inmates.”

Right to Privacy: Bench by Bench, a right discussed and interpreted (2024)

FAQs

Who headed the nine judge Supreme Court bench which declared the right to privacy to be a fundamental right under the Indian Constitution? ›

A nine-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice, J.S. Khehar on 24th August, 2017 gave a landmark decision on Right to Privacy.

What has the Supreme Court said about the right to privacy? ›

​In Griswold, the Supreme Court found a right to privacy, derived from penumbras of other explicitly stated constitutional protections. The Court used the personal protections expressly stated in the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Ninth Amendments to find that there is an implied right to privacy in the Constitution.

What does the bench mean in the Supreme Court? ›

Bench refers to the seat where the judge sits in the courtroom, and the term is used to refer to the judge.

What is the right to privacy summary? ›

The principle which protects personal writings and any other productions of the intellect or of the emotions, is the right to privacy, and the law has no new principle to formulate when it extends this protection to the personal appearance, sayings, acts, and to personal relations, domestic or otherwise.

Who approves each justice to the bench? ›

Supreme Court justices, court of appeals judges, and district court judges are nominated by the President and confirmed by the United States Senate, as stated in the Constitution.

What amendment is the right to privacy? ›

The Constitution, through the Fourth Amendment, protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government.

What is a violation of the right to privacy? ›

Privacy violations include gathering information on individuals engaging in constitutionally protected activities, improperly accessing or sharing a subject's information, or sharing a subject's record without a valid law enforcement purpose.

What unwritten right is protected by the Ninth Amendment? ›

Because the rights protected by the Ninth Amendment are not specified, they are referred to as “unenumerated.” The Supreme Court has found that unenumerated rights include such important rights as the right to travel, the right to vote, the right to keep personal matters private and to make important decisions about ...

Which of the following is accurate regarding the Supreme Court's interpretation of a right to privacy? ›

C. The court's interpretation of a right to privacy has been the subject of controversy. This statement accurately reflects the Supreme Court's interpretation of the right to privacy, with different cases and decisions leading to differing opinions on the scope and application of this right.

Why is a bench called a bench? ›

Bench derives from the Germanic banc, as the familiar long shared seating. In earliest forms, it typically referred to the seating of retainers in a hall, possibly because that was the only time it was written about. The king's seat, a wide throne, was the kine-bench, with kine- meaning king.

Can a Supreme Court Justice be thrown off the bench? ›

The Constitution states that Justices "shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour." This means that the Justices hold office as long as they choose and can only be removed from office by impeachment. Has a Justice ever been impeached? The only Justice to be impeached was Associate Justice Samuel Chase in 1805.

Why does a judge wear a black robe? ›

It is said that the black robe tradition started in England with the multi-year mourning of the death of Queen Mary II in 1694. In the federal system and in 49 states, the robe is black. The one outlier is the highest court of Maryland - the Maryland Court of Appeals - where the Justices wear red robes.

How does the 14th Amendment protect the right to privacy? ›

Held that privacy is a "fundamental right" protected by the Fourteenth Amendment, which reads in part, "nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

What are the four types of invasion of privacy? ›

It generally consists of the following four distinct causes of action, called torts:
  • Appropriation of Name or Likeness.
  • Intrusion Upon Seclusion.
  • False Light.
  • Public Disclosure of Private Facts.

What are the three elements of the right to privacy? ›

According to Edward Bloustein, privacy is an interest of the human personality. It protects the inviolate personality, the individual's independence, dignity and integrity. According to Ruth Gavison, there are three elements in privacy: secrecy, anonymity and solitude.

Who appointed the 9 Supreme Court justices? ›

How are Supreme Court Justices selected? The President nominates someone for a vacancy on the Court and the Senate votes to confirm the nominee, which requires a simple majority.

Who was the 9th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court? ›

John G. Roberts, Jr., Chief Justice of the United States,

He served as a law clerk for Judge Henry J. Friendly of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from 1979–1980, and as a law clerk for then-Associate Justice William H. Rehnquist of the Supreme Court of the United States during the 1980 Term.

Who did George H Bush appoint to the Supreme Court? ›

Bush appointed Clarence Thomas to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and then elevated him to the Supreme Court. Samuel Alito, appointed by Bush to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, was later elevated to the Supreme Court.

Who did John Adams appoint Chief Justice of the Supreme Court? ›

Though Thomas Jefferson had defeated John Adams in the presidential election of 1800, Adams remained a "lame duck" President until March 1801. In January 1801 he appointed John Marshall to succeed Oliver Ellsworth as Chief Justice.

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