NEW DELHI: The Narendra Modi government on Thursday attempted to hijack the Supreme Court’s verdict which declared the right to privacy as a fundamental right, by claiming that the Supreme Court has only affirmed the government’s stand. Law and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said much before the nine-judge bench was constituted in the apex court to decide on the issue of privacy, the Modi government had told Parliament that privacy is a fundamental right.
“We welcome the Supreme Court judgement that privacy should be a fundamental right... SC has affirmed what government had said in Parliament while moving Aadhar Bill. Privacy should be a fundamental right subject to reasonable restrictions,” Shankar told a press conference convened to respond to the landmark apex court verdict.
Similarly, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley also claimed the verdict to be a victory of government and both the ministers blamed the previous UPA regime for the matter having reached court. Jaitley said, “Privacy issue went to Supreme Court because previous UPA government brought Aadhaar without legal framework. We framed Aadhaar law ensuring privacy as fundamental right will be protected. Supreme Court accepted privacy is a fundamental right but not an absolute right; judgment is a positive development.”
The government seemed to have taken a U-turn after the verdict as before the apex court, the current Attorney General KK Venugopal and the former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi had both argued that right to privacy was not a fundamental right. In a hearing that took place on July 29, the Centre’s senior most law officer Venugopal had said, “There is no fundamental right to privacy and even if it is assumed as a fundamental right, it is multifaceted. Every facet can’t be ipso facto considered a fundamental right.”
At the press conference when Prasad was asked why the then Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi had told the apex court that citizens don't have absolute right on their body if the government believes that right to privacy is a fundamental right, Prasad said the government and the court are on the same page on the issue. “What the A-G said was part of courtroom banter which has not been reflected in the judgement,” Prasad said.
Prasad avoided questions on reference to other sensitive topics on which the Supreme Court commented in its hugely significant verdict on right to privacy. These topics were sexual orientation of people, need to maintain secrecy and the proposed surrogacy law which bars same sex parents and trans- genders from going for surrogacy. He said the issues could be discussed later as the focus now was on Aadhaar. BJP President Amit Shah too welcomed the verdict and said, “Congress is engaging in false show of jubilation and vindication over SC’s right to privacy judgement.”