This 92-year-old judge kicked off the fight that secured your right to privacy

“Without privacy, a person cannot live with dignity,” says Justice KS Puttuswamy, the first petitioner to challenge the Centre against Aadhaar.
This 92-year-old judge kicked off the fight that secured your right to privacy
This 92-year-old judge kicked off the fight that secured your right to privacy
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In a landmark decision that will benefit the lives of Indian citizens, the Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously declared that right to privacy was a fundamental right under the Constitution of India.

A nine-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar ruled that “right to privacy is an intrinsic part of Right to Life and Personal Liberty under Article 21 and entire Part III of the Constitution”.

TNM caught up with 92-year-old Justice KS Puttuswamy, the retired Karnataka High Court judge who was the original petitioner, challenging the Centre over making Aadhaar mandatory. He had filed the petition in 2012 and over the last five years, 20 other petitions have been tagged along with his, challenging the Aadhaar scheme.

Reacting to the historic verdict, Justice Puttuswamy said, “Without privacy, a person cannot live with dignity and the Preamble of the Constitution states – assuring the dignity of an individual. This is a great victory for Indian citizens.”

Here are some excerpts from his interview:

It’s a historic day for you and for the rest of India. Is this vindication for all your efforts?

Yes, of course it is. The bench passed the verdict unanimously and that is a big deal. The government of India fought very hard against this petition. Indian citizens finally have the right to privacy.

What does this mean for the common citizen of India?

Privacy does not always have to relate to Aadhaar. It is a bigger issue. We may not be able to understand the value of this judgement now but we will realise this over the course of time. It will have an impact on security – which has a very broad definition at the moment. With this landmark judgement, the Supreme Court has given Indian citizens what we have fought for, for a very long time.

What motivated you to file the petition?

The government of India demanded that citizens give details of their retina and fingerprints to a private company which was collecting Aadhaar details. Why should a person reveal such private things about his or her person to a private company? This was a breach of privacy and someone had to fight it.

How do you see today’s judgement now impacting the Aadhaar case?

It will have an impact but we will have to wait and see how. The Centre will definitely fight this case.

Can the government file an appeal against this judgement?

The judgement is final. It is a nine-judge Constitution Bench. Even if the government files a review petition, they will not succeed.

This judgement also gives hope to those who want to see section 377 struck down. What are your views on this?

Section 377 is regarding unnatural offense. With all due respect to the judges, this issue should not have been brought up by the bench and is unrelated to the verdict.

After a long fight, you finally registered for Aadhaar a few months ago. Why?

I can’t go against the Supreme Court judgement. I have to file my income tax returns like every other citizen. Linking the Aadhaar card with your Pan Card is mandatory. I did not have a choice. Should I break the rule then?

You had earlier said “I know it will be a favourable judgement and a unanimous one”. How did you know?

I have fought the case for years and the proceedings suggested that we had a strong case. That’s how I knew I would win this case.

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