Union of India


“Life, in Article 21 of the Constitution, is not merely the physical act of breathing. It does not mean mere animal existence or continued drudgery through life.”

The right to privacy has been an international right for one to live with liberty. International rights that protect citizens from “arbitory interference” with their reputation, life, livelihood, property, and correspondence are the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948, under Article 12, and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), 1966, under Article 17. The European Union also recognizes them as absolute fundamental rights. The EU Treaties and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights enshrine two rights in this matter: privacy and data protection. India became a member of this group in 1979. For over 60 years, the right to privacy has been evolving in India as a matter of liberty. Through some important cases, it has been amended several times and is now recognized as a fundamental right in India. The case of Justice KS Puttaswamy vs. Union of India has been a landmark case for this decision, where the prior judgments were questioned, argued, and overruled. As privacy is a basic right of every citizen, the question of whether they need to show their problematic and personal information in a document issued by the government should be considered a violation of their fundamental right or not was raised.

Issues Raised

Is collecting biometric information from citizens a violation of their right to privacy or not?

Whether the right to privacy is a fundamental right in the Constitution or not under Article 21?

Whether judgment in prior cases like MP Sharma and Kharak Singh is valid or not?


Year: 2017

Laws: Article 14, Article 19, and Article 21 of the Constitution of India

Bench strength: 9

Number of opinions: 6

Case type: civil writ petition

Aspects of privacy: status as fundamental privacy.

This case has been a trademark case regarding the question if Right to privacy is a fundamental right in constitution of India. In 2009 when Indian Govt. started collacting biometric data of Indian citizens for Adhar card , where they took iris scan facial scan and fingerprints of the citizens and provided them a 12 digits unique identification number . Govt. collected this data to provide them social security and use it as national identification. They later decided to make it mendatory in 2015 for everyone to use various govt.  schemes like Manrega, mid day meal etc., the main purpose behind it was to control corruption and increase the transparacy. Here the question was raisedif storing of biometric information of all the citizens is safe enough also in the situation of information getting leaked who is going to take the charges of their privacy. Thus privacy being a fundamental right was raised . Justice KS Puttaswamy filed a petition in Supreme court regarding the issue of  personal information of citizens being unsafe and violation of their Right To Privacy.

The same issue was talked about before in cases like MP Sharna vs. Satish Chandra, District Magistrate, Delhi [(1954) SCR 1077] and Kharak Singh vs. State of Uttar Pradesh [(1964) 1 SCR 332]. In these cases, judges declined for the Indian government to take responsibility for the right to privacy. Where cases like Menka Gandhi vs. State of MP, R. Rajgopal vs. State of Tamilnadu, and Govind vs. State of MP, the Supreme Court assured the right to privacy.

On the other hand, cases like Gobind vs. state of MP, R. Rajagopal vs. state of TN and People’s Union for Civil Liberty vs. Union of India, SC, recognized this as a constitutionally protected right.

A five-judge bench was set to discuss the validity of the Adhar card. Justice KS Puttaswamy argued that the government is collating the data of Indian citizens and storing it on a central server, and there are no safety measures to protect the crucial information. Also, he argues about the validation of the use of Adhar in various welfare schemes, as it is a right to be given to every citizen and should not be stopped for any reason.

On August 11, 2015, a bench of three judges comprising Justice Chelmeshwar, Bobde, and C. Nagappan passed an order that a bench of appropriate strength must examine the validity of the decisions in prior cases like MP Sharma and Kharak Singh.

After the matter was discussed by the five-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Khehar, it was referred to a nine-judge bench on July 18, 2017. The bench was comprised of Chief Justice Khehar, Jati Chelmeshwar, S.A. Bobde, D.Y. Chandrachud, Abdul Nazeen, Nariman, R.K. Agrawal, Abhay Manohar Sapre, and Sanjay Kishan Kaul. Beginning on July 19, 2017, it concluded on August 2, 2017.

The attorney general opposed the arguments by saying that there was never an original base for the right to privacy in the Indian Constitution and that the framers of the Constitution didn’t include this right.

The Supreme Court gave a landmark judgment making the right to privacy a fundamental right in the Indian Constitution by overruling the decision of Kharak Singh and MP Sharma case.The Navtej Singh Jauhar case was judged on the basis of this overruling, and Sec. 377 was declared unconstitutional.

On September 26, 2018, the Adhar Act was validated by a bench of five judges, and it was confirmed that sharing biometric data is not a violation of the right to privacy.

Privacy in Justice Chandrachud’s words was described as a basic and natural right to be given to a human being, not bounties granted by the states; he also recognized privacy as a matter of control of indivisuals about their home, marriage, livelihood, personal intimesies, the sanity of family, and sex orientation, all of which are at the core of privacy. Justice Chandrachud also explained the overruled decisions of prior cases and the existence of the right to privacy in the Constitution.

According to Justice Chelmeshwar, it is important because liberty is the freedom of an individual to do what he pleases, and the exercise of that freedom would be meaningless without the freedom of privacy. It contains three characteristics: repose, sanctuary, and intimate decisions, all of which enlighten the entity of liberty to life. Fundamental rights detriment the state’s interference with an indivisual, of which privacy is an essential ingredient.

In Justice Bobde’s words, privacy is a common law as well as a fundamental right. As a fundamental right, it stands against the state, while as a common law right, it works horizontally between indivisibles.

Nariman J. describes it as a right to be free from encroachment in private life. He explained it as a basic and essential ingredient in human life, even without its expression in the constitution. He also said that the framers of the Constitution created an organic document that would evolve with time, thus needing to be discussed in the present as well.

Sapre J. explained it as an inalienable and inherent right to an indivisual, experiencing the enjoyment of a meaningful life with dignity that must be accepted and motivated by every part of society governed by the rule of law.

According to Justice Sk Kaul, core concepts of constitution like liberty, equality, and dignity are intangible notions that need to be modified and amended through time. He focused on the fact that disturbances in privacy in this digital era are a matter that needs to be looked at. An indivisual must have the right to protect its digital privacy as well as its social privacy. Data protection is an important task in this social era, where the tech security of an individual is at risk.


  • The right to privacy is an intrinsic value in the Constitution under Article 21.
  • The Court overrules the prior judgments in the MP Sharma and Kharak Singh cases of consent not taking responsibility for the right to privacy. The foundation of the right to privacy could be found in Articles 14, 19, 20, 21, and 25.
  • It is concluded that Aadhar would not be mendatory for opening a bank account or for getting a mobile connection, although SC made it mandatory to link Adhar with PAN. Aadhar is declared mendatory for filling ITR, according to the Apex Court.
  • Sharing data or disclosure of information by a user [section 33(2)] regarding national security is struck down.
  • Section 47 allowed UIDAI to claim everyone’s data. Struck down, this gives citizens the power to take action against misuse of their technological information.
  • Section 57 allowed PVT companies to get and use the biometric data of citizens; this was also struck down by the SC to protect the data.
  • Use of registered devices only for authentication requests and deletion of authentication every six months is mandatory.
  • Sharing biometric information is not a violation of the right to privacy.

In addition to the profound implications of the Puttaswamy case, its ramifications extend beyond the legal circle. The ruling has sparked national conversations about the balance between individual privacy and government surveillance, echoing global debates on digital rights. Furthermore, the judgment underscores the judiciary’s role in safeguarding citizens’ fundamental freedoms in an increasingly interconnected world, where technological advancements often outpace legal frameworks designed to protect personal data and privacy rights.

 Name : Chanchal Narwani

Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar University, Jaipur.

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