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Wednesday , 16 January 2019
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State can collect data but must secure it by robust regime: SC

New Delhi, Aug 24 (IANS) The Supreme Court has on Thursday held that right to privacy was fundamental, which is a intrinsic and core feature of life and personal liberty, but still said that the state can collect and store data about people for legitimate reasons.

“Apart from national security, the state may have justifiable reasons for the collection and storage of data,” the judgment authored by Justice D.Y.Chandrachud said. “In a social welfare state, the government embarks upon programmes which provide benefits to impoverished and marginalised sections of society.”

However, he said that informational privacy is a facet of the right to privacy and the dangers to privacy in an age of information can originate not only from the state but from non-state actors as well.

Also speaking for Chief Justice J.S. Khehar, Justice R.K. Agrawal and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer, Justice Chandrachud said: “We commend to the Union Government the need to examine and put into place a robust regime for data protection.”

“The creation of such a regime requires a careful and sensitive balance between individual interests and legitimate concerns of the state. The legitimate aims of the state would include for instance protecting national security, preventing and investigating crime, encouraging innovation and the spread of knowledge, and preventing the dissipation of social welfare benefits.

“These are matters of policy to be considered by the Union government while designing a carefully structured regime for the protection of the data.”

Noting data mining with the object of ensuring that resources are properly deployed to legitimate beneficiaries was a valid ground for the state to insist on the collection of authentic data, Justice Chandrachud however cautioned that this data “ought not to be utilised unauthorisedly for extraneous purposes”.

Holding that like all other fundamental rights, the right to privacy too was subject to same restriction, Justice Chandrachud said: “There is a vital state interest in ensuring that scarce public resources are not dissipated by the diversion of resources to persons who do not qualify as recipients.”

Holding that the right to privacy, which is an intrinsic part of the right to life and liberty, and the freedoms embodied in Part III is subject to the same restraints which apply to those freedoms, he said: “A law which encroaches upon privacy will have to withstand the touchstone of permissible restrictions on fundamental rights.

“In the context of Article 21 an invasion of privacy must be justified on the basis of a law which stipulates a procedure which is fair, just and reasonable.”

Endorsing the position taken in the main judgment, Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre in his judgment said that right to privacy was not an “absolute right but is subject to certain reasonable restrictions, which the State is entitled to impose on the basis of social, moral and compelling public interest in accordance with law.”

“…, there is an unprecedented need for regulation regarding the extent to which such information can be stored, processed and used by non-state actors. There is also a need for protection of such information from the state,” said Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, who also noted that the information collected by the state should be “not used without the consent of users and that it is used for the purpose and to the extent it was disclosed”/


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