NEW DELHI: The view of smaller benches that right to privacy is a fundamental right, contrary to the verdicts rendered by larger six and eight-judge benches, raises issue of "institutional integrity and judicial discipline", the Supreme Court observed today.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar agreed with the submission of Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi that an authoritative pronouncement from the bench of appropriate strength was needed as there have been inconsistent decisions.
He had cited judgments, pronounced by benches of higher strengths, which had held that right to privacy is not a fundamental right and subsequently, smaller benches had held a contrary view.
The bench said there appears to be "certain amount of apparent unresolved contradiction in the law" declared by the apex court and quietus has to be given to the kind of controversy raised in this batch of cases once for all. The three judges were of the opinion that the cases on hand raise far-reaching questions of importance involving interpretation of the Constitution.
"What is at stake is the amplitude of the fundamental rights including that precious and inalienable right under Article 21.
"If the observations made in M P Sharma (supra) and Kharak Singh (supra) are to be read literally and accepted as the law of this country, the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India and more particularly right to liberty under Article 21 would be denuded of vigour and vitality.
"At the same time, we are also of the opinion that the institutional integrity and judicial discipline require that pronouncement made by larger benches of this court cannot be ignored by smaller benches without appropriately explaining the reasons for not following the pronouncements made by such larger benches," the bench said.
The court said, "With due respect to all the Judges who rendered the subsequent judgments - where right to privacy is asserted or referred to their Lordships concern for the liberty of human beings, we are of the humble opinion that there appears to be certain amount of apparent unresolved contradiction in the law declared by this Court."
It said, "in our opinion to give a quietus to the kind of controversy raised in this batch of cases once for all, it is better that the ratio decidendi of M P Sharma (supra) and Kharak Singh (supra) is scrutinized and the jurisprudential correctness of the subsequent decisions of this Court where right to privacy is either asserted or referred be examined and authoritatively decided by a Bench of appropriate strength."