Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Highlights of Privacy Judgment


496. The right of privacy is a fundamental right. It is a right which protects the inner sphere of the individual from interference from both State, and non-State actors and allows the individuals to make autonomous life choices.

497. It was rightly expressed on behalf of the Petitioners that the technology has made it possible to enter a citizen's house without knocking at his/her door and this is equally possible both by the State and non-State actors. It is an individual's choice as to who enters his house, how he lives and in what relationship. The privacy of the home must protect the family, marriage, procreation and sexual orientation which are all important aspects of dignity.

498. If the individual permits someone to enter the house it does not mean that others can enter the house. The only check and balance is that it should not harm the other individual or affect his or her rights. This applies both to the physical form and to technology. In an era where there are wide, varied, social and cultural norms and more so in a country like ours which prides itself on its diversity, privacy is one of the most important rights to be protected both against State and non-State actors and be recognized as a fundamental right. How it thereafter works out in its inter-play with other fundamental rights and when such restrictions would become necessary would depend on the factual matrix of each case. That it may give rise to more litigation can hardly be the reason not to recognize this important, natural, primordial right as a fundamental right.

499. There are two aspects of the opinion of Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, J., one of which is common to the opinion of Rohinton F. Nariman, J., needing specific mention. While considering the evolution of Constitutional jurisprudence on the right of privacy he has referred to the judgment in Suresh Kumar Koushal v. Naz Foundation MANU/SC/1278/2013 : (2014) 1 SCC 1. In the challenge laid to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code before the Delhi High Court, one of the grounds of challenge was that the said provision amounted to an infringement of the right to dignity and privacy. The Delhi High Court, inter alia, observed that the right to live with dignity and the right of privacy both are recognized as dimensions of Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The view of the High Court, however did not find favour with the Supreme Court and it was observed that only a miniscule fraction of the country's population constitutes lesbians, gays, bisexuals or transgenders and thus, there cannot be any basis for declaring the Section ultra virus of provisions of Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution. The matter did not rest at this, as the issue of privacy and dignity discussed by the High Court was also observed upon.

The sexual orientation even within the four walls of the house thus became an aspect of debate. I am in agreement with the view of Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, J., who in paragraphs 123 & 124 of his judgment, states that the right of privacy cannot be denied, even if there is a miniscule fraction of the population which is affected. The majoritarian concept does not apply to Constitutional rights and the Courts are often called up on to take what may be categorized as a non-majoritarian view, in the check and balance of power envisaged under the Constitution of India. Ones sexual orientation is undoubtedly an attribute of privacy.
The observations made in Mosley v. News Group Papers Ltd. (2008) EWHS 1777 (QB), in a broader concept may be usefully referred to:
130... It is not simply a matter of personal privacy v. the public interest. The modern perception is that there is a public interest in respecting personal privacy. It is thus a question of taking account of conflicting public interest considerations and evaluating them according to increasingly well recognized criteria.

131. When the courts identify an infringement of a person's Article 8 rights, and in particular in the context of his freedom to conduct his sex life and personal relationships as he wishes, it is right to afford a remedy and to vindicate that right. The only permitted exception is where there is a countervailing public interest which in the particular circumstances is strong enough to outweigh it; that is to say, because one at least of the established "limiting principles" comes into play. Was it necessary and proportionate for the intrusion to take place, for example, in order to expose illegal activity or to prevent the public from being significantly misled by public claims hitherto made by the individual concerned (as with Naomi Campbell's public denials of drug-taking)? Or was it necessary because the information, in the words of the Strasbourg court in Von Hannover at (60) and (76), would make a contribution to "a debate of general interest"? That is, of course, a very high test, it is yet to be determined how far that doctrine will be taken in the courts of this jurisdiction in relation to photography in public places. If taken literally, it would mean a very significant change in what is permitted. It would have a profound effect on the tabloid and celebrity culture to which we have become accustomed in recent years.

500. It is not necessary to delve into this issue further, other than in the context of privacy as that would be an issue to be debated before the appropriate Bench, the matter having been referred to a larger Bench.

501. The second aspect is the discussion in respect of the majority judgment in the case of ADM Jabalpur v. Shivkant Shukla MANU/SC/0062/1976 : (1976) 2 SCC 521 in both the opinions. In I.R. Coelho v. The State of Tamil Nadu MANU/SC/0595/2007 : (2007) 2 SCC 1 it was observed that the ADM Jabalpur case has been impliedly overruled and that the supervening event was the 44th Amendment to the Constitution, amending Article 359 of the Constitution. I fully agree with the view expressly overruling the ADM Jabalpur case which was an aberration in the constitutional jurisprudence of our country and the desirability of burying the majority opinion ten fathom deep, with no chance of resurrection.

502. Let the right of privacy, an inherent right, be unequivocally a fundamental right embedded in part-III of the Constitution of India, but subject to the restrictions specified, relatable to that part. This is the call of today. The old order changeth yielding place to new.


503. The judgment on behalf of the Hon'ble Chief Justice Shri Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, Shri Justice R.K. Agrawal, Shri Justice S Abdul Nazeer and Dr. Justice D.Y. Chandrachud was delivered by Dr. Justice D.Y. Chandrachud. Shri Justice J Chelameswar, Shri Justice S.A. Bobde, Shri Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre, Shri Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman and Shri Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul delivered separate judgments.

504. The reference is disposed of in the following terms:

(i) The decision in M.P. Sharma which holds that the right to privacy is not protected by the Constitution stands over-ruled;

(ii) The decision in Kharak Singh to the extent that it holds that the right to privacy is not protected by the Constitution stands over-ruled;

(iii) The right to privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty Under Article 21 and as a part of the freedoms guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution.

(iv) Decisions subsequent to Kharak Singh which have enunciated the position in (iii) above lay down the correct position in law.


Writ Petition (Civil) No. 494 of 2012, 

Decided On: 24.08.2017

 Justice K.S. Puttaswamy Vs.  Union of India (UOI) and Ors.
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Supreme Court decriminalised all consensual sex among adults in private including homosexual sex

We hold and declare that:

(i) Section 377 of the Penal Code, in so far as it criminalises consensual sexual conduct between adults of the same sex, is unconstitutional;

(ii) Members of the LGBT community are entitled, as all other citizens, to the full range of constitutional rights including the liberties protected by the Constitution;

(iii) The choice of whom to partner, the ability to find fulfilment in sexual intimacies and the right not to be subjected to discriminatory behaviour are intrinsic to the constitutional protection of sexual orientation;

(iv) Members of the LGBT community are entitled to the benefit of an equal citizenship, without discrimination, and to the equal protection of law; and

(v) The decision in Koushal stands overruled.


Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 76 of 2016, 

Decided On: 06.09.2018

 Navtej Singh Johar  Vs. Union of India (UOI) and Ors.
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Supreme Court Judgment upholding sexual autonomy of married woman(Adultery Judgment)

 The contra view is that adultery is a marital wrong, which should have only civil consequences. A wrong punishable with criminal sanctions, must be a public wrong against society as a whole, and not merely an act committed against an individual victim.
To criminalize a certain conduct is to declare that it is a public wrong which would justify  public censure, and warrant the use of criminal sanction against such harm and wrong doing.
The autonomy of an individual to make his or her choices with respect to his/her sexuality in the most intimate spaces of life, should be protected from public censure through criminal sanction. The autonomy of the individual to take such decisions, which are purely personal, would be repugnant to any interference by the State to take action purportedly in the „best interest‟ of the individual.
Andrew Ashworth and Jeremy Horder in their commentary titled „Principles of Criminal Law‟59 have stated that the traditional starting point of criminalization is the „harm principle‟ the essence of which is that the State is justified in criminalizing a conduct which causes harm to others. The authors opine that the three elements for criminalization are: (i) harm, (ii) wrong doing, and (iii) public element, which are required to be 59 Oxford University Press, (7th Edn.) May 2013  proved before the State can classify a wrongful act as a criminal offence.
John Stuart Mill states that ―the only purpose for which power can be rightly exercised over the member of a civilized community against his will is The other important element is wrongfulness. Andrew Simester and Andreas von Hirsch opine that a necessary pre-requisite of criminalization is that the conduct amounts to a moral wrong.61 That even though sexual infidelity may be morally wrong conduct, this may not be a sufficient condition to criminalize the same.
17. In my view, criminal sanction may be justified where there is a public element in the wrong, such as offences against State security, and the like. These are public wrongs where the victim is not the individual, but the community as a whole.
60 Mill, John S., Chapter I: Introductory, On Liberty, Published London: Longman, Roberts, & Green Co. 1869, 4th Edn.
61 A P Simester and Andreas von Hirsch, Crimes, Harms, And Wrongs: On The Principles Of Criminalisation, Oxford: Hart Publishing (2011)  Adultery undoubtedly is a moral wrong qua the spouse and the family. The issue is whether there is a sufficient element of wrongfulness to society in general, in order to bring it within the ambit of criminal law?
The element of public censure, visiting the delinquent with penal consequences, and overriding individual rights, would be justified only when the society is directly impacted by such conduct. In fact, a much stronger justification is required where an offence is punishable with imprisonment.
The State must follow the minimalist approach in the criminalization of offences, keeping in view the respect for the autonomy of the individual to make his/her personal choices.
The right to live with dignity includes the right not to be subjected to public censure and punishment by the State except where absolutely necessary. In order to determine what conduct requires State interference through criminal sanction, the State must consider whether the civil remedy will serve the purpose. Where a  civil remedy for a wrongful act is sufficient, it may not warrant criminal sanction by the State.
18. In view of the aforesaid discussion, and the anomalies in Section 497, as enumerated in para 11 above, it is declared that :
(i) Section 497 is struck down as unconstitutional being violative of Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution.
(ii) Section 198(2) of the Cr.P.C. which contains the procedure for prosecution under Chapter XX of the I.P.C. shall be unconstitutional only to the extent that it is applicable to the offence of Adultery under Section 497.
(iii) The decisions in Sowmithri Vishnu (supra), V.
Rewathi (supra) and W. Kalyani (supra) hereby stand overruled.


Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 194 of 2017 (Under Article 32 of the Constitution of India)

Decided On: 27.09.2018

Joseph Shine Vs. Union of India (UOI)
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Sunday, 14 July 2019

Whether proceeding before Lok adalat is judicial proceeding?

The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987

22. Powers of 1 [Lok Adalat or Permanent Lok Adalat.]—(1) The 1 [Lok Adalat or Permanent Lok Adalat] shall, for the purposes of holding any determination under this Act, have the same powers as are vested in a Civil Court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908), while trying a suit in respect of the following matters, namely:—

(a) the summoning and enforcing the attendance of any witness and examining him on oath;

(b) the discovery and production of any document;

(c) the reception of evidence on affidavits;

(d) the requisitioning of any public record or document or copy of such record or document from any court or office; and

(e) such other matters as may be prescribed.

(2) Without prejudice to the generality of the powers contained in sub-section (1), every 1 [Lok Adalat or Permanent Lok Adalat] shall have the requisite powers to specify its own procedure for the determination of any dispute coming before it.

(3) All proceedings before a 1 [Lok Adalat or Permanent Lok Adalat] shall be deemed to be judicial proceedings within the meaning of sections 193, 219 and 228 of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860) and every 1 [Lok Adalat or Permanent Lok Adalat] shall be deemed to be a Civil Court for the purpose of section195 and Chapter XXVI of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974).

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