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Is our Private Life Really Private? – Right to Privacy

Is our Private Life Really Private? – Right to Privacy

Privacy is a concept that is deeply rooted in history and religion. The importance of Privacy has been recognised throughout the world from time immemorial. George Orwell, a famous English writer, once said that there would come a time when each and every activity of the people would be monitored. His novels were always dominated by the idea of loss of an individual’s liberty. His fears have somewhat come true in this era of information. Individual Privacy is in greater danger than ever before not only because of the advanced technologies which can be used to track any person, but also due to the showcase of one’s own life in various social media platforms. A person’s life is made available to the world in a canvas. To understand the importance of Privacy, we need to dwell deeper into the legality of the Right to Privacy.

Right to Privacy:

Though Privacy has existed from a very long time, defining the term in concise manner is difficult. Various jurists and philosophers have tried defining ‘privacy’ but were not able to consolidate the expression in a few sentences.  Justice Louis Brandeis of the US Supreme Court, in the year 1890, urged that it was an individual’s “right to be let alone” 1.  The legal system was founded for the physical protection of a person or his property. But with the dawn of the Information and Communication Revolution, it became a necessity for the protection of mon’s privacy so much so that Right to Privacy is now being considered as a basic Human Right. Many Human Rights activists vouch for privacy to be protected and are against any practice which infringes a person’s privacy.

Privacy as a Human Right:

Recognising Privacy as a Fundamental Human Right is a modern thought. Since Privacy has been a part of various cultures from a very long time, the meaning of privacy is highly dependent on a nation’s culture. Privacy as Human Right concept evolved from the Tort law in the common-law countries. The basis for Privacy rights started by defying the notion – “the King can do no wrong”. People vouched for their privacy and the Justice system went to the extent of prosecuting the Kings for breach of Privacy of the citizens. The common-law system paved way for several international Conventions in the post-World War II scenario, with the most important international covenant being he Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

The UDHR is a milestone in the field of Human Rights. The international covenant which was adopted in the year 1948, contains every aspect of the Human Rights. Article 12 of the UDHR says that every person is entitled to his privacy and there should be no interference from a third person into his private life.  Many Countries have adopted and ratified the UDHR as a law, and also have inducted the Right to Privacy as separate legislations. As far as India is concerned, there is no specific law for right to Privacy. The Constitution of India and the Fundamental Rights within serve the Purpose of safeguarding Rights of its citizens.

Right to Privacy and The Indian Constitution

Articles 19 and 21 are the most important Articles for the Privacy Rights as there is no separate Fundamental Right which defines Right to Privacy. The Courts have carved out the Right to Privacy from the “Right to Freedom” in Art. 19 and “Right to Life” Art. in 21. This Constitutional Right to privacy contained in Right to life must be read with the freedom to publish or propagate a private matter. There were several cases decided by the Supreme Court that emphasised the importance of Privacy by the virtue of Art. 21 and have rendered justice to the citizens. Though the Supreme Court made a constitutional right for Privacy, from the existing Fundamental Rights, it is the truth that there are no special legislation or clauses which caters as a Right to Privacy Law unlike other Countries.

Scenario in other Countries and Data Protection Act:

Several Common-law countries have enacted Privacy laws. The Preamble of the Australian Privacy Charter provide that people have their right to privacy of their own body, private space and information privacy. Article 11 in the American Convention on Human Rights also validates the Right to Privacy in their Country. Further, Canada and the many European nations have Data Protection Acts which protect the privacy of the information stored in the internet or carried in a portable device. Hence, it can be easily said that Right to Privacy is an essential phenomenon which will see more developments in the future.

Conclusion:

Humans treasure Privacy and connect the same with their personal freedom. Having a private life and safeguarding the well-being of oneself has been existing from ancient times. Thus, it is not new that people want to have their Right to Privacy and would knock the doors of the Judges for the enforcing Privacy Rights. Many countries have legislations for Privacy and India is not far behind. The constitution guarantees Fundamental Rights to every citizen and takes care of the Right to Privacy through Article 21. Enacting a special law for Right to Privacy is the only step left in India, to ensure that every citizen has the right to his personal life and information, thus further strengthening the Fundamental Rights given to the citizens of India.

Notes:

  1. Olmstead v. United States

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