Privacy is integral to human dignity and security, serving as the premise on which many other human rights are founded. As a social being, we are bound to interact and exchange information about our lives and otherwise with variety of people in our day to day interaction but the power to control the amount of information we chose to intimate to others should ideally lie with us. Any kind of interference with this can be considered as a breach of privacy. The information might be as trivial as someone having a tuna sandwich for their lunch but if the person wants to keep it to himself, his sense of privacy needs to be respected. Unless one is suspected of posing a threat to others in the society, there’s absolutely no reason to put them under surveillance.
Privacy ensures people are able to protect their reputations. How other people judge us affects our opportunities, relationships and cumulative well-being. Defending credibility is based on defending not only against mistruths and falsities but also against other facts. People have a tendency to judge others out of context and over half-truths and jump to conclusion in a blink of an eye. Sometimes this intrusion can also mean our past following our present and depriving us of a chance of shaping a better future. Right to Privacy will help people to grow and evolve without all the stupid things they may have done in the past being tethered with them. Obviously not all misdeeds should be concealed, but some should be, because we want development and change to be promoted and facilitated.
More than that, in a democratic society the essence of freedom is the right of individuals to autonomy, to be largely free from corporate and political intervention in their lives. The right of people to choose what knowledge they share with others, subject to demonstrably required and carefully designed limits, is one of the fundamental differences between authoritarian regimes and free society. Those who do not have right to privacy are susceptible to unrestricted intrusions by states, companies, or anybody else who wishes to intervene with your personal matters. It could possibly mean a society in which government has an unencumbered right to ask for information from you, or withdraw money from your bank account, or even invade your house.
An important factor why privacy matters is not describing or defending yourself. We may do a number of activities that might seem strange or awkward, or worse, if viewed from a distance by those without full experience or understanding. It can be a heavy burden if we have to constantly ask how others will interpret everything we do, and be prepared to explain.
On one hand, the advancement of technology help us maintain our privacy in a more secured way, on the other, it also poses the threat of putting us under unnecessary surveillance. The amusing part is our privacy can be easily compromised without us having a single clue about it. And if we are unable to detect these kinds of surveillance in the first place, how are we going to fight for our right to privacy that is being infringed.
Privacy helps secure our right to participate in political activism and to communicate our views with other people. A crucial aspect of political association equality is the right to do so, if one wishes, with anonymity. At the ballot, we protect privacy out of the fact that failure to do so will curb people’s option to vote for the candidate.
While the importance and validity of the right to privacy has always been a debatable issue, it really took the centre stage with the Puttaswamy Case in the year 2017 when the question of right to privacy being a fundamental right was raised following concerns over Aadhar scheme. It was unanimously held by the nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court that the Constitution guaranteed the right to privacy as an inherent part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21. The M.P. Sharma2 and Kharak Singh3 cases were also overruled as they failed to recognize the right to privacy. This decision also paved way for the LGBTQ community by strengthening their challenge against the validity of Section 377 of IPC in Navtej Singh Johar vs Union Of India Ministry Of Law4. A person’s sexual orientation and choices should in no way make them liable for any kind of fine or punishment.
Time and again, the right to privacy has come under the scrutiny of Supreme Court as it is not an absolute right and those in favour of the surveillance measures put forth the argument of “If you didn’t do anything wrong, then you shouldn’t have anything to hide” which can always be countered with “If I didn’t do something wrong, there should be no reason to watch me”.
1. K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India (Aadhaar-5 Judge), (2019) 1 SCC 1.
2. M. P. Sharma And Others vs Satish Chandra, 1954 AIR 300.
3. Kharak Singh vs The State Of U. P. & Others, 1963 AIR 1295.
4. W. P. (Crl.) No. 76 of 2016 D. No. 14961/2016.
This Article is Authored by Swikruti Mohanty, 1st Year, BBA. LL.B, Student at National Law University, Odisha.
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