Published On: Thu, Aug 24th, 2017

Privacy a protected right but subject to reasonable restrictions: SC

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday held privacy to be a constitutionally protected right but subject to reasonable restrictions.

The Supreme Court has laid down the test which must be satisfied by any State action invading privacy

“The notion that there must exist a reasonable expectation of privacy ensures that while on the one hand, the individual has a protected zone of privacy, yet on the other, the exercise of individual choices is subject to the rights of others to lead orderly lives,” it said in a judgment by a nine-judge bench which upheld privacy as a fundamental right.

The court elucidated: “For instance, an individual who possesses a plot of land may decide to build upon it subject to zoning regulations. If the building bye-laws define the area upon which construction can be raised or the height of the boundary wall around the property, the right to privacy of the individual is conditioned by regulations designed to protect the interests of the community in planned spaces.

“Hence, while the individual is entitled to a zone of privacy, its extent is based not only on the subjective expectation of the individual but on an objective principle which defines a reasonable expectation.”

The Supreme Court also cautioned: “…it is necessary to acknowledge that individuals live in communities and work in communities. Their personalities affect and in turn are shaped by their social environment. The individual is not a hermit. The lives of individuals are as much a social phenomenon. In their interactions with others, individuals are constantly engaged in behavioural patterns and in relationships impacting on the rest of society.”

The Supreme Court has laid down the test which must be satisfied by any State action invading privacy.

It stated: “A law which encroaches upon privacy will have to withstand the touchstone of permissible restrictions on fundamental rights. In the context of Article 21, an invasion of privacy must be justified on the basis of a law which stipulates a procedure which is fair, just and reasonable.

“The law must also be valid with reference to the encroachment on life and personal liberty under Article 21. An invasion of life or personal liberty must meet the three-fold requirement of (i) legality, which postulates the existence of law; (ii) need, defined in terms of a legitimate state aim; and (iii) proportionality, which ensures a rational nexus between the objects and the means adopted to achieve them.”

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