Human Rights are what makes the world go around. They protect our dignity, our humanity and serve as a refuge for advanced and troubled societies alike. Human Rights are interrelated, indivisible and interdependent.
According to the United Nations Human Rights Office, “It is the duty of each country to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems.”
One such fundamental human right is the ‘Right to Privacy’. Privacy underpins human dignity and other key values such as freedom of association and freedom of speech. It has become one of the most important human rights issues of the modern age. Over 150 national constitutions in the world mention the Right to Privacy.
Now, so has India. On 24th August, A nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court has ruled that Indians enjoy a fundamental Right to Privacy which is intrinsic to life and liberty and thus comes under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
How this came to be about is an interesting story. Our government as a part of the Aadhar program has collected data of over 1.17 billion Indians, claiming that this data will be used to fix plugs in welfare schemes. However, many petitioners challenged Aadhar because the form is mandatory in all but name and it goes against the essence of a person’s right to privacy. In response, the Government of India claimed that the right to privacy is not a fundamental and constitutionally protected right.
In a landmark judgment, this claim was overturned. Making privacy a fundamental right will impact daily lives in ways that range from eating habits to online behaviour. Why does this matter, though?
According to privacyinternational.org,
“In modern society, the deliberation around privacy is a debate about modern freedoms.
As we consider how we establish and protect the boundaries around the individual, and the ability of the individual to have a say in what happens to him or her, we are equally trying to decide:
- ethics of modern life,
- rules governing the conduct of commerce and,
- restraints we place upon the power of the state.”
The most significant challenge to privacy is that the right can be compromised without the individual being aware. With other rights, one is aware of the interference — being detained, censored, or restrained.
This is why technology has always been intertwined with this right. It will be a necessary challenge to regulate it.
There are many systems and processes and laws that need to come up and support this fundamental right, just like all others. We also need to increase our own awareness of its application. Since this is a ‘Fundamental Right’, it also has a corresponding ‘Fundamental Duty’.
Giving everyone their space is step one!