Privacy Law in India

In 2017 the right to privacy in India took a fillip when nine judges of the Supreme Court of India in Justice K.S. Puttaswamy vs. Union of India unanimously re-affirmed it as a fundamental right under the Indian Constitution. In Puttaswamy, the Supreme Court clarified that the right to privacy extended to multiple facets of human life and manifested differently in relation to our homes, our bodies, and information about us. This expansive reading of the right to privacy has resulted in key reform in India’s legal landscape such as, inter alia, the decriminalisation of same sex relationships, striking down of the crime of adultery, and the recognition of the autonomy of a person to choose their marital partner.

In Puttaswamy, the Supreme Court recognised informational privacy as a core facet of the larger right to privacy and recommended that the Indian government take necessary and proper steps to institute a data protection law in the country. Three years hence, a parliamentary committee is debating a draft of India’s first personal data protection law. Such a law will have wide ranging implications for businesses and governments alike and will bring about changes which seek to give more control to individuals over the use of their personal data.

The Supreme Court of India

At the apex of India’s judicial system sits the Supreme Court of India below which are the High Courts in each State or a group of States. The Court comprises the Chief Justice of India and may include 33 other judges appointed by the President of India. From 1950 onwards, the strength of the Supreme Court has gradually increased from 8 judges (including the Chief Justice) and now the Court sits in single judge formations or smaller benches of 2-3, coming together in larger benches of 5 and more for interpreting constitutional provisions or when required to do so. The Court’s decisions are binding on all other courts within the territory of India but not on itself. A larger bench of the Court may overrule the decision of a smaller bench.

The Supreme Court exercises original, appellate, and advisory jurisdiction over cases from all over India. The Constitution of India provides extensive original jurisdiction to the Supreme Court in regard to enforcement of fundamental rights (for ex. the right to privacy, free speech, and equality). It also has very wide appellate jurisdiction over all courts in India, including granting of special leave to appeal from any judgment, decree, determination, sentence or order of any other court or tribunal in the country. The Court also enjoys special advisory jurisdiction in matters which may specifically be referred to it by the President of India.

Currently, this database contains key cases on privacy as delivered by the Supreme Court of India from 1954 onwards. Other privacy law and case law from India will be incorporated as the website develops.