HM Journal

Justice K.S Puttaswamy (Retd.) & Anr v. Union of India


The case of Justice K.S Puttaswamy v UOI[1] is a landmark case comprising a 9 judge bench where it was held that according to Articles 14, 19, and 21 of the Indian Constitution, the Right to Privacy is a fundamental right[2]. The right to privacy, like most other fundamental rights, is not an “absolute right,” according to the Supreme Court. The Apex Court observed that a person’s privacy interests can be overcome by conflicting governmental and individual interests if specific standards and benchmarks are met.

Background:

The Government of India launched a programme called “Unique Identification for BPL Families.” For the project, a committee was formed. The Committee for the Project proposed that a Unique Identification database be created. It was agreed that the project would be broken down into three stages. The Planning Commission of India issued a notification on UIDAI in January 2009.The Commission enacted the National Identification Authority of India Bill in 2010. In November 2012, retired Justice K S Puttuswamy and Mr. Parvesh Sharma filed a PIL Writ Petition in the Supreme Court questioning Aadhaar’s validity.

Facts of the case:

The policy was challenged on the grounds that it infringed on fundamental rights. The policy infringed on Indian individuals’ right to privacy under Article 21. A number of orders were issued following the filing of this writ suit. In 2016, the Aadhaar Act was passed. The petitioners subsequently filed a second writ petition, this time contesting the Act’s constitutionality. In May 2017, Jairam Ramesh, a former Union minister and Congress politician, filed a petition with the Supreme Court. He questioned why the Aadhaar Bill was treated as a money bill.

Petitioners’ Contentions:

Following are the major contentions made by the petitioners:

  • That the Aadhaar Act’s planning is probabilistic by definition. The Act intends to provide society with more subsidies, benefits, and services. It’s likely that, rather than delivering these benefits, subsidies, and services to the people who need them, they’ll wind up being denied access to them.
  • Strict execution of the Aadhaar Act might pose a significant challenge since it violates the Fundamental Rights guaranteed to Indian citizens by the Indian Constitution.
  • That citizens’ right to privacy was being infringed upon because the Aadhaar was in violation of the Constitution and had the ability to turn an intrusive state into a surveillance state based on the data collected from each individual through the creation of a common electronic mesh.
  • The Act establishes limits that aren’t covered by Article 19’s definition of “reasonable restrictions.”[3] If any restrictions are imposed, it is critical that they comply with Articles 14 and 19 of the Indian Constitution. It’s also crucial that the law imposing the restriction be fair, just, and reasonable.

Respondent’s Contentions:

The government i.e., respondents made several submission:

  • That the purpose of enacting the Act was to ensure that all people who are eligible for government benefits and subsidies get such benefits and subsidies and are not denied them.
  • That the Act hardly asks individuals for any personal information that might be used by the government to spy on them and the demographic information that the Act wants from residents includes their name, date of birth, gender, address, phone number, and email address.
  • The purpose of the government’s provision requiring residents to provide their Aadhaar number when applying for a PAN card and filing income tax returns is to detect tax evaders by connecting their PAN card with Aadhaar. Tax evaders would be deterred if the PAN card is linked to Aadhaar. This will also ensure that each person has just one PAN card.
  • The Unique Identification Authority of India has the capability to invalidate an individual’s Aadhaar number permanently or temporarily.

Judgment:

The Court also held that people’ right to privacy must be safeguarded as an integral component of their right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution and as part of the freedoms provided by Part III of the Constitution.

The Court ordered the government to take steps to increase security in order to secure the information collected by the public. The Court further ordered that the information collected through Aadhaar should not be shared with commercial banks, payment banks, or e-wallet firms. The Court ruled that Section 57 of the Act was invalid and so had to be repealed[4]. After striking down numerous sections of the Act that were contradictory to the Constitution and infringed people’ rights, the Court maintained Aadhaar’s legality.

Judgement – Cyber Laws

Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) and anr. v Union of India, 2018.

Edited By: Anamika Singh of NUSRL, Ranchi.


Decided on: 26 September 2018

Court:  Supreme Court of India

Judgment Authored by: Justice A. Sikri


[1] Id at 1.

[2] (2017) 10 SCC 1

[3]  INDIA CONST. art. 19, cl. 2

[4] Aadhar and Other Laws (Amendment) Act, 2019, § 25, No. 14, Acts of Parliament, 2019(India).

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