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India Just Ruled That Everyone Has A Right To Privacy. Here's What That Means.

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1. Ok so, WTF just happened?

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India’s Supreme Court ruled Thursday that privacy is your fundamental right as an Indian citizen.

A bench of nine judges unanimously declared that Article 21 of the consitution includes a right to privacy.

2. Erm. What is Article 21?

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Article 21 of the Indian Constitution states: "No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to a procedure established by law."

It's the article that promises us a right to life!

3. So what does this verdict mean?

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It means that you have the right to not let the government or the state or anyone snoop on you or your data without your consent, simply because privacy is a very important part of your right to live freely and with personal liberty.

4. Got it. Why were we fighting this case?

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For more than two years, petitioners have challenged the constitutionality of Aadhaar in the Supreme Court on the ground that it violates people's privacy by forcing them to scan their fingerprints and irises and their personal details into a database that both the government and private companies can access.

The Indian government had argued against the petitioners by saying that privacy was an "elitist concept" and that Indians had "no absolute right" over their own bodies.

5. WAIT. THE GOVERNMENT SAID I HAVE NO RIGHT OVER MY BODY?

Actually, yeah. ^ That was the government's argument in the Supreme Court!
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Actually, yeah. ^ That was the government's argument in the Supreme Court!

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6. Wow. Crazy. So it's a good thing that we now have a right to privacy?

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Yes, it's a HUGE win in many ways.

For instance, you can now legally push back against unreasonable restrictions like being forced to link your Aadhaar number to your PAN card if you — and most privacy experts — are worried about the privacy implications of a government program that collects personal and biometric data of a billion-plus people and stores it in an online database.

7. Hmm. But, what's the catch?

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All Indian fundamental rights include "reasonable restrictions". We don't yet know what those are. Hopefully they'll be reasonable.

8. Does this mean that Aadhaar is screwed?

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Not yet. A smaller bench will be deciding whether the government has the right to access citizen data using the Aadhaar. But, the fact that India's highest court thinks that you have a right to privacy is definitely a setback for the Aadhaar program.

9. Wait, but it's got to be about more than just Aadhaar, right?

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Yes! What makes this ruling ~EPIC~ is that it gives teeth — big, long, sharp ones — to arguments on various issues, like marital rape, euthanasia, who we love, what we eat (cough*beefban*cough), and more.

10. Whoa. Like, this could mean gay sex is legal?

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Not yet! A case pending in Supreme Court will debate Section 377 specifically. But today's 547-page ruling doesn't mince words about the fact that sexual orientation is an "essential attribute" of privacy.

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11. And beef? What'd you say about beef?

Supreme Court Of India

12. Goddamn. So our country is fully fixed?

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No, don't get so enthu so fast. The Supreme Court has simply said that they interpret the "right to life" (Article 21!) as including a "right to privacy". How it's specifically applied will depend on judges who debate future cases that come up, where it's relevant. We've got to wait and watch.

What's for sure is: Aadhaar just ran into a HUGE speedbump, and equal rights for LGBTQ folks has a better shot than ever.

13. That's BRILLIANT. Who decided all this?

Lots and lots of BADASS lawyers fought this case, ultimately convincing the nine judges above to vote in favour of privacy.
BuzzFeed India

Lots and lots of BADASS lawyers fought this case, ultimately convincing the nine judges above to vote in favour of privacy.

Pranav Dixit is a tech reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Delhi.

Contact Pranav Dixit at pranav.dixit@buzzfeed.com.

Contact Sonia Mariam Thomas at Sonia.thomas@buzzfeed.com.

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