NEW DELHI, Aug 24 - In a landmark verdict, the right to privacy was today declared a fundamental right under the Constitution by the Supreme Court, which said �privacy is the constitutional core of human dignity�.
The judgement, which will have a bearing on the lives of all Indians, said that �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.�
The top court also ruled that like other fundamental rights, the right to privacy was not absolute and any encroachment will have to withstand the touchstone of permissible restrictions.
A nine-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar, which delivered as many as six concurring verdicts, overruled the contrary apex court verdicts delivered in 1950 and 1962 in the M P Sharma and the Kharak Singh cases holding that right to privacy was not part of the Constitution.
The top court rejected the NDA government�s vehement contention that there was no general or fundamental right to privacy under the Constitution.
The lead judgement, penned by Justice DY Chandrachud for himself, the CJI, Justices RK Agrawal and S A Nazeer, however, asked the government to examine and put in place a �robust regime� for data protection in the modern era.
However, the top court gave a ray of hope to embattled government, whose Aadhaar scheme is under intense scrutiny over privacy infringements, said, �We commend to the Union Government the need to examine and put into place a robust regime for data protection.
�The creation of such a regime requires a careful and sensitive balance between individual interests and legitimate concerns of the state. The legitimate aims of the state would include for instance protecting national security, preventing and investigating crime, encouraging innovation and the spread of knowledge, and preventing the dissipation of social welfare benefits�.
Besides the four judges including the CJI, Justices J Chelameswar, S A Bobde, Abhay Manohar Sapre, Rohinton Fali Nariman and Sanjay Kishan Kaul wrote separate, but concurring verdicts running into 547-pages.
The judgement was welcomed by leading legal experts, including Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who is himself a lawyer. Noted jurist Soli Sorabjee said �no fundamental right is absolute. It is always subject to reasonable restrictions�.
The CJI pronounced the summary of concurring verdicts in a packed courtroom at 10.35 AM and said, �the decision in M P Sharma (1950) which holds that the right to privacy is not protected by the Constitution stands overruled.
�The decision in Kharak Singh (1962) to the extent that it holds that the right to privacy is not protected by the Constitution stands overruled�.
The bench put at rest the persistent query as to where Right to Privacy, if recognised as a fundamental right, would be placed under Part III (which refers to such rights) the Constitution.
It said that right to privacy was protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 and rather, it can be traced to entire Part III as and as a part of all the fundamental rights.
He then proceeded to declare that all verdicts, which recognised privacy as a key component of fundamental rights, delivered post the M P Sharma and the Kharak Singh laid down �the correct position in law�.
The judgement said that privacy included at its core the preservation of personal intimacies, the sanctity of family life, marriage, procreation, the home and sexual orientation.
�Privacy also connotes a right to be left alone. Privacy safeguards individual autonomy and recognises the ability of the individual to control vital aspects of his or her life. � PTI