"The SC Judgement on Privacy Should Be Sculpted in History": Gopal Subramanium
THE CITIZEN BUREAU
NEW DELHI: This judgement by the Supreme Court recognising privacy as a fundamental right, in my view, should be sculpted in history,” said former Solicitor General of India Gopal Subramanium who argued the case as he said, to his “heart’s content.”
In a quick conversation with The Citizen, Subramanium said that ruling “is the most historic since 1950.” Why? Because it recognises the most important inner aspect of human life. It explores wide ranging issues and not privacy in just the restrictive sense of security, but in the sense of personal freedom to make choices, preferences or orientation,” the senior lawyer said.
Exultant about the ruling, he said that it was on such occasions that he felt happy “I am not a judge and I could argue the case to my heart’s content.”
Subramanium said that this ruling upholding privacy as a fundamental right is the “most monumental contribution of the Supreme Court I can remember in my 40 years as a lawyer.” He said it establishes how the court values life and liberties of teh individual.
Let me put it like this, this is a judgement that shows the Supreme Court at its best and greatest, he added making it clear he had absolutely no reservations about any apsect of the apex court ruling today.
On its impact on Aadhar, Subramanium was cautious saying that it would be “completely premature” to say anything on this issue at the mpment. That the ruling on privacy came from a very different discourse, and “we will have to see what happens at the next stage.”
That the judgement has renewed hope at different levels is also apparent from the response of retired Major General Sudhir Vombatkere who is one of the petitioners in the case, and who praised the advocates for “effectively opposing Government’s contention that privacy was not a fundamental right, which included the ludicrous argument that a person has no right over his/her own body. This argument of Government, if upheld, would have laid the ground for total and untargeted surveillance of all citizens.”
General Vombatkere in a short response to The Citizen said, “the judgment makes every Indian who respects the Constitution of India, proud of the institution that is the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India. As one of the Petitioners in this case, I have a personal angle to this pride in the institution of our country’s highest judiciary. For a start, I have an enduring respect for the liberties which the Constitution recognises, which dates back over six decades, and I now owe a redoubled personal debt to the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, as the following may demonstrate.
To elaborate, my father, Vombatkere Gurunandan Row (better known as V.G. Row, Barrister-at-law), was general secretary of a society named People’s Education Society and was publishing a newsletter from the Society. This Society was declared as an unlawful association under extant criminal law by the Government of Madras [The State of Madras vs V.G.Row].
My father fought the charge in the courts of law up to the Supreme Court before a five-judge bench including the CJI, and on March 31, 1952, won his case on the basis of the freedom of expression and freedom of association, which the Constitution guarantees every citizen. Indeed years later, on 16 October 2008, Justice K.Kannan (Judge, Punjab & Haryana High Court) noted thus: “The triad of fundamental freedoms of expression, movement and association found the first affirmation in A.K.Gopalan and V.G.Row, the names that are etched into constitutional history via the Madras High Court”.
If my father had not fought and won his freedom on the basis of the Constitution of India, he would have been imprisoned, changing everything in a big way for my mother, my brother and me way back in 1952, when I was still a child. That is the debt I and my family owe to the Constitution of India, and to the Supreme Court of India which recognised and enforced its freedoms.
Now the right to privacy has been recognized as a fundamental right although, like other fundamental rights, it is, as it should be, subject to reasonable restrictions. The matter of the right to privacy came up as a result of a bunch of Petitions which challenged the Aadhaar system, which began as not-mandatory, but went on to become mandatory-in-fact as Governments and their agencies began to coerce people into enrolling with their biometrics.
Now the cases opposing Aadhaar will be heard by a separate Bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court and we can expect that justice will be done once again, on the basis of “Satyameva Jayate”.
Long live the Republic of India, and may the values it enshrines always remain valid in Indian society!”