HYDERABAD: Now that the apex court has reiterated that right to privacy is a fundamental right, irrespective of whether an individual is a public personality or not, will Thursday’s landmark judgement change the way the media cover celebrities?
The verdict comes a few weeks after 12 Tollywood personalities were summoned by the Telangana Prohibition and Excise Department in connection with an investigation into drug peddling in Hyderabad. The celebs, their identities disclosed by the authorities before any charges were filed against them, were subjected to wide media coverage. Weeks earlier, actor Ravi Teja was subjected to media scrutiny when he chose not to attend his brother’s funeral.
The lives of celebrities do have a bearing on the public domain if their actions influence public opinion. If this is reported, then it will not qualify as a violation, said Faizan Mustafa, vice-chancellor of NALSAR University of Law. “In the case of political leaders, if they indulge in activities that cast doubts on their integrity, then people who vote for them should know. On the other hand, if one probes into the reason behind Sonia Gandhi’s treatment, then it is an invasion of privacy and she has the right to withhold the information,” explained Mustafa.
Also, since the right to privacy, or any fundamental right, according to the Constitution, is not an absolute right, reporting details of celebrities’ lives will not entirely amount to a violation of their privacy, he said.
Prof Gali Vinod Kumar, former principal, PG College of Law, Osmania University, said celebrities do have a public responsibility. “If you take the case of actor Ravi Teja, he can’t be questioned on public grounds. Constitutionally, it is not anyone’s business to find out why he didn’t attend his brother’s funeral and he cannot be coerced to give an explanation,” said the professor.
However, in the case of celebrities who were summoned for the drug investigation, they have to bow to the State as the information sought from them is crucial to fight a major social problem, he added. “There is no question of right to privacy in this case,” he stressed.
Akun Sabharwal, director of Telangana Excise, said the decision of the Supreme Court would be followed in word and spirit as his staff proceed with their investigation. “We have to wait for the guidelines,” he said.