Nine-judge bench to decide whether privacy is a fundamental right
The formation of the nine-judge Bench seeks to bring an end to contradictory judicial pronouncements of the past on the issue of the right to privacy.
Supreme Court of India on 18 July 2017 decided to set up a nine-judge bench to decide whether the right to privacy in the world’s largest democracy can be defined as a fundamental right under the Constitution or not.
The nine-judge bench will start hearing the issue and decided whether the fundamental rights, described under Part III of the Constitution, also include the right to privacy from 19 July 2017.
The decision to form a nine-judge bench was taken by a five-judge Constitution bench while hearing a bunch of petitions contending that the Aadhaar Scheme, which requires the mandatory parting of biometric details, is a violation of citizens’ right to privacy.
This five-judge Constitution bench was led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar. Other members of this bench were Justice J Chelameswar, Justice SA Bobde, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice S Abdul Nazeer.
Earlier, a three-judge Bench led by Justice Chelameswar that on 7 October 2015 referred the petitions to the larger bench after the attorney-general Mukul Rohatgi referred to the inconsistencies in the past apex court verdicts and said that the issue whether the right to privacy was a fundamental right or not, needed to be settled first. However, the cases remain hanging despite several reminders from the petitioners.
On 12 July 2017, the court decided to refer the Aadhaar petitions to a five-judge Bench so that they can deal with the Aadhaar-related matters. The apex court agreed to hear the pleas after Attorney General KK Venugopal and senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for petitioners who have challenged the government's move to make Aadhaar mandatory for various public welfare schemes, had jointly mentioned the matters.
In addition to this, this nine-judge bench will also examine the correctness of the two judgements delivered in cases of MP Sharma and Kharak Singh, in which it was held that right to privacy is not a fundamental right. The two verdicts were delivered by an eight-judge Constitution bench in 1950 and six- judge bench in 1960, respectively.