counter to the Supreme Court's landmark judgement in K.S. Puttaswamy case (2017)

Generally understood that privacy is synonymous with the right to be let alone. The Supreme Court described privacy and its importance in the landmark decision of K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India in 2017. The right to privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 and as a part of the freedoms guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution. The Puttaswamy judgement holds that the right to privacy is protected as a fundamental constitutional right under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India. K.S. Puttaswamy case, Article 21, Various dimensions of Right to privacy. and the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019.

Recently, a Judge of the Madras High Court has said that a recent order passed by another judge of the same court, mandating the installation of CCTV cameras inside spas [massage and therapy centres], appears to run counter to the Supreme Court's landmark judgement in K.S. Puttaswamy case (2017).

In this case, the Supreme Court declared that the right to life and personal liberty guaranteed in Article 21 also implicitly includes a right to privacy. This right to privacy is seen as possessing: It is important for every person’s basic dignity. Instrumental value: It furthers a person’s ability to live a life free of interference.

Forms of Right to Privacy: Privacy as guaranteed in Article 21 takes several different forms. It includes A right to bodily autonomy, A right to informational privacy, A right to privacy of choice.

Right to Relax: Suspicion that immoral activities are taking place in spas cannot be a reason enough to intrude into an individual’s right to relax, for it intrinsically is part and parcel of his fundamental right to privacy.

Thus, the installation of CCTV equipment inside premises such as a spa would unquestionably go against a person’s bodily autonomy. These are inviolable spaces where the prying eye of the State cannot be allowed to enter.

The doctrine of Separation of Powers: The reach of fundamental rights cannot be curtailed by any judicial measure. It held that, though no right can be absolute, restrictions can be put in place only by the legislature or the executive. Apart from it, the Supreme Court alone can do so in the exercise of its power under Article 142.

The right may be restricted only by state action that passes each of the three tests: First, such state action must have a legislative mandate. Second, it must be pursuing a legitimate state purpose, and Third, it must be proportionate i.e., such state action- both in its nature and extent, must be necessary for a democratic society and the action ought to be the least intrusive of the available alternatives to accomplish the ends.

The step was taken by Government: Acknowledging the importance of privacy, the Government has presented the personal Data Protection Bill 2019 in Parliament.