Privacy: Will Big Bro stop watching you now?

With the Supreme Court upholding privacy as a fundamental right, questions arise against several practices that the State as well as private organisations have been indulging in for years

Published: 25th August 2017 08:46 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th August 2017 08:46 AM   |  A+A-

By Express News Service

Can they look in your fridge now?
Did Mohammed Akhlaq eat beef? It doesn’t matter. The judgment is clear that none would like to be told by the State as to what to eat. So, while cow slaughter may be banned, it is beyond the powers of the State to stop a person from eating what he wants, as Justice Chelameshwar clearly wrote in the judgment.

Can girls wear jeans to college?
If the State cannot prescribe a dress code, as the judgment says, can a college ban ‘girls wearing jeans’? Can a club keep a Meghalayan woman out of its precincts? Many lordships have previously pontificated on sartorial sense and sensibility. Will that stop now?

What when a fasting protester is near death?
The State kept noted activist Irom Sharmila on feeding tubes when her health failed during her long protest fast. But forced feeding of certain persons by the State raises questions of privacy, as the verdict clearly says. Will that stop now?

Will the sting be taken out of exposes?
Sting operations are often a great way of exposing the warts and warps in the system. However, if the ‘expose’ is a bedroom visual of two consenting adults, regardless of their stature or public posture on morality, would it now be a violation of the rights of the two individuals?

Will Love Jihad probes stop?
Where does the privacy judgment place the Supreme Court’s own directive to the National Investigation Agency to probe the self-willed conversion and marriage of a woman in Kerala? While national security would still be grounds to clamp ‘reasonable restrictions’ on privacy, wouldn’t asking an investigating agency to inquire into the conversion of an adult woman of sound mental faculty directly contradict the unanimous judgment delivered Thursday?

Where does life v choice debate stand now?
At the core of privacy is the body, which comes with greater implications for women for whom the body is often political as well. The freedom of choice whether to bear a child or abort her pregnancy falls in the realm of privacy, the judgement says. In present practice, however, privacy ceases to be a ground for abortion in cases of pregnancy more than 20 weeks old.

Are big data a breach of privacy too?
Tech czars have been gushing about Big Data being the next gold rush. But at the core of this mammoth-volume data is a single unit - an individual, her preferences, likes and dislikes, food habits, political positions and the like. While expressing these in silos offers relative control over one’s privacy, in aggregate these bits of information spread across various platforms that are mined by commercial firms provides the picture of the being.

Can a patient decide to end his life?
In some West countries, patients are free to refuse intrusive life support systems that help prolong life but often at the cost of dignity. As an individual is deemed to be the absolute authority over his or her or her body, debates are likely to arise on the right to refuse life-prolonging medical treatment and the right to terminate life. The question of euthanasia is pending before the Supreme Court.

Will they stop trolling Barkha Dutt?
If you have a difference of opinion, do argue with all your might. But that criticism would be deemed to have breached Barkha Dutt’s fundamental right if the comments are about her private life including marriage. The same applies to Shashi Tharoor as well, by the way.

Will they turn away the CCTVs now?
The Supreme Court order states that an individual’s privacy is not surrendered because she is in the public space. That deals a death blow to the oft-cited excuses of the sort that an MMS scandal victim herself shared a photograph on social media. But then what about the omnipresent CCTV cameras, both private and public? Do they violate privacy or not?

Where does this leave marital rape?
The Supreme Court’s judgment leaves little doubt that an individual and his or her right to her body is beyond question. Which raises the question about marital rape, an issue that the country still feels queasy to deal with. Does protecting the institution of marriage override the woman’s fundamental right over her body?

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