S C Ruling on privacy also reaffirms right to dissent and food habits

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Aadhaar card was introduced by the UPA government and at that time it was the BJP which was in the forefront to oppose the scheme, but now the unique identity plan has been broad-based and many welfare measures have been linked to it by the NDA government. Therefore the government opposed the privacy as a fundamental right. This stand of the government was rejected by the historic judgment handed down by the nine-judge bench unanimously on August 24. It emphasized the value of dissent and tolerance besides the rights of minorities. Privacy was declared as intrinsic to right to life and part of fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution. The unanimous judgment stands out uniquely, because in some previous verdicts by the Supreme Court on the issue, mixed views were expressed. Now we may assume it was a final call that was taken by the Apex court. However, the court has left the space for the government. The court has recognized that a balance needs to be maintained between the right to privacy and the right of the state to impose reasonable restrictions on it for legitimate aims such as national security and investigation of crimes etc. This judgment has given the paramount position to privacy, but whether the government can collect biometric data and link it to various welfare measures and in the process how many restrictions it can impose on the privacy is being heard by a three-judge bench separately. On account of technological advancement this personal data is also being collected by many private organizations and it clearly poses a challenge to the right to privacy. We hope the three-judge bench will not give a vast scope to the state to impose restrictions on the right to privacy.

It is heartening to note that the judgment delineated the limits of the state intervention into the private life of the citizens. Justice J Chelameswar who wrote his judgment as well as on  behalf of three others said , “ I do not  think anybody  would like to  be  told by the state as to  what he should eat or how they should dress.”  Now the  government would  refrain from making laws on  beef ban as illogical as the Maharashtra government made and  got a rap from  the  High  Court. The food habits are the part of the right to privacy. About right to dissent  the  verdict says, “Those governed are entitled to question  those who govern.” It may be recalled that on beef ban many BJP and  Sangh Parivar leaders including the Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar advised Muslims that if they could not stop eating beef, they should go to Pakistan. Not a single BJP leader found fault with him. It seemed it was a tacit permission of the government to the BJP leaders and Sangh Parivar motormouths to speak  at their wish and will creating an atmosphere of  intolerance. This judgment will be a leash for them.

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