Vaishnavi Annasaheb Nirmal | Manikchand Pahade Law College, Aurangabad | 14th February 2020
Justice K. S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) and Anr. Vs. Union of India(WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 494 OF 2012)
In September 2010, the UPA Government established the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and issued the first Aadhaar card which consists biometric data of the holder citizen. Later on the ambit of Aadhaar was being expanded by asking the citizens to enroll for it and link the same with various schemes and services.
But there was a loophole. Aadhaar regulator UIDAI had been set up by an executive order and lacked a legislative back up. This had left a section of intellectuals concerned about the government’s extra-legal encroachment of the rights of the citizens. The complaint was that the government is trying controlling lives of the citizens by intruding into their private spaces.
One such person was a retired judge of the Karnataka High Court, Justice KS Puttaswamy.
Then 86, Justice Puttaswamy filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the validity of Aadhaar. He argued that Aadhaar could not be made mandatory for availing rights and public services.
Justice Puttaswamy’s petition came before the Supreme Court in October, 2012. The Supreme Court sought first response from the Centre the next month. Meanwhile, several other petitions piled up before the Supreme Court, which bunched them together.
Justice Puttaswamy, now 92, found the executive action to force Aadhaar was not right and affected his rights as a citizen.
Lack of a legislative backing and interference of right to privacy were the two main concerns that Justice Puttaswamy (petitioner) raised in his petition.
This matter was first placed before a 5 Judge Bench headed by the then Chief Justice Khehar. Subsequently, the matter was referred to a 9 Judge Bench on 18th July 2017.
The Bench comprised of C.J.I. Khehar and Justices Jasti Chelameshwar, S.A. Bobde, D.Y. Chandrachud, Abdul Nazeer, Nariman, R.K. Agarwal, Abhay Manohar Sapre and Sanjay Kishan Kaul.
In this historic decision which was delivered on 24th August 2017, the Bench unanimously recognised fundamental right to privacy of every individual guaranteed by the Constitution, within Article 21(Right to Life) in particular and Part III on the whole. The decisions in M.P. Sharma and Kharak Singhwere overruled by the bench in this case itself.
This is a landmark decision which is likely to lead to constitutional challenges to a wide range of Indian legislation, for example legislation criminalising same-sex relationships as well as bans on beef and alcohol consumption in many Indian States. Observers also expect the Indian Government to establish a data protection regime to protect the privacy of the individual.
Since the 2017 judgment, the fundamental right to privacy has been cited as precedent in various landmark judgments.