Right to Privacy

The Supreme Court has held that the Right to Privacy is not a fundamental and absolute right. The State does have the right to restrict it. True, the Right to Privacy is not enshrined is not known to have been enshrined in any constitution as a fundamental right. But conventions have grown over the years that respect this right in certain sphere. The Privacy Act of 1974 of the USA is a federal law that establishes a Code of Fair Information Practice governing the collection, use and dissemination of information about individuals. In India today, a citizen’s privacy is being invaded by the State, the industrial organizations and by the plain fraudsters.
The State can intrude into the privacy of a citizen only when the citizen concerned is suspected or accused to have committed a crime punishable under the law. The State cannot, on any pretext, dig out and use personal information of a citizen for political purposes. Stealing personal information by corporate bodies with a view to using them for commercial purposes takes place regularly in various ways but it is ethically unsupportable. Obtaining personal information like PIN number, debit or credit card number, etc., by fraudsters is a crime. Very often the citizen unwittingly falls victim to clever telephone callers claiming to be bank officials and defrauding the customers.
Today, the omnipotent State is, for all practical purposes, bringing the entire citizenry under constant surveillance. Even for obtaining a cooking gas connection or buying a mobile phone, one has to ‘link’ it with one’s aadhar card which contains all personal data about the person – from the colour of his eyes and hair, to the impression of all the ten fingers of his/her hand. Even entitlement to essential services like getting a ration card now depends on the aadhar card. This ‘open Sesame’ card is a must to get into a reserved rail compartment of a train or get a boarding pass for entering an aircraft. The Reserve Bank of India keeps a vigil on every banking transaction of any amount. Sudden withdrawal of a large amount of money from a bank may invite the prying eyes of the Income Tax Department or some other department. The State wants to invade every aspect of the individual citizen’s personal and private life. There has to be some constitutional and legal provision to protect the individual citizen from unnecessary and unwarranted prying by the State or any of its multifarious agencies.

Sunday, 23 July, 2017