3 tiers of Privacy

The Supreme Court outlined a three-tier, graded approach to whether privacy is a fundamental right by examining the issue through its intimate, private and public aspects even as it reserved its verdict in the case.

Prior to completion of the two-week hearing that saw arguments for and against conferring fundamental right status to privacy but which saw all parties accepting its intrinsic importance for an individual, a nine judge bench headed by CJI J S Khehar said privacy could be configured into three zones.

Justice D Y Chandrachud set out the tentative thought process and drew support from Justice R F Nariman. He said, “The first zone could be the most intimate zone of privacy concerning marriage, sexuality, relations with family and the law should frown upon any intrusion. The state could still intrude into this zone in extraordinary circumstances provided it met stringent norms. The second would be the private zone, which involved parting of personal data by use of credit card, social networking platforms, I-T declarations. In this sphere, sharing of personal data by an individual will be used only for the purpose for which it is shared.“

“The third is public zone where privacy protection requires minimal regulation. Here, personal data shared will not mean right to privacy is surrendered. The individual will retain his privacy to body and mind.“

The formulation suggests right to privacy may not be unfettered.

The bench realised the difficulty in a straitjacket interpretation of constitutional status of right to privacy . The fledgling service sector provided food for thought. 

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