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SC verdict on Right to Privacy positive but not absolute: Arun Jaitley

Congress calls it a blow to 'fascistic forces'

Archis Mohan  |  New Delhi 

Union Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, Jaitley
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley addressing a press conference in New Delhi. (File photo: PTI)

At 11 am on Tuesday, the Supreme Court (SC) quashed instant triple talaq as unconstitutional. At 12.35 pm, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah tweeted his detailed statement welcoming the judgment. Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi, ministers, chief ministers and party spokespersons swarmed social media and television channels to term the verdict “historic”.

But 48 hours can be a long time in politics. At 10.45 am on Thursday, a nine-member Bench of the SC announced its unanimous decision declaring the a Not even one leader, let alone party chief Shah, commented on the verdict on social media or was willing to speak to newspapers and television channels till the evening. None of the spokespersons at its headquarters at 11 Ashoka Road were willing to comment on the issue. From the side of the government, it was left to Information Technology and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to address the media and field questions at 3.30 pm. Prasad claimed the government has been consistently of the view that the should be a Later in the evening, Finance Minister said the SC judgment has accepted as a but not as an absolute right, and that the judgment is a positive development for If the apex court judgment embarrassed the Modi government, it reinvigorated the Opposition. The headquarters at 24 Akbar Road buzzed with activity. A little after 100 minutes of the nine-member Bench delivering its verdict, senior leader P Chidambaram, flanked by other senior party leaders, held a press conference. “Today, we can once again celebrate our freedom. Tomorrow, there will be other challenges, other questions, and other attempts to invade the We shall overcome those challenges too,” Chidrambaram said. The former finance minister said privacy is the core of personal liberty and is an inalienable part of life itself. “By virtue of the judgment of the SC, has acquired a new magnificence.” Chidambaram, a lawyer, termed the Modi government’s approach in its interpretation of under Article 21, on the protection of life and personal liberty, as “inconsistent”. Chidambaram said the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) had conceived as an administrative tool to ensure that benefits of government welfare schemes reached their targeted people, and there were no leakages or duplication. He said the fault was not with the Aadhaar concept, but with the Modi government’s “use and misuse” of Aadhaar as a tool. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), President Sonia Gandhi and party Vice-President Rahul Gandhi also either tweeted their reactions or issued statements by 2 pm. The Congress Vice-President tweeted at 1.46 pm: “The SC decision marked a major blow to fascist forces.

A sound rejection of the BJP’s ideology of suppression through surveillance.” In her statement, Congress President Sonia Gandhi said the SC verdict on right to privacy strikes at “unbridled encroachment and surveillance” by the state and its agencies on the life of the common man. She said the Congress and Opposition together spoke for the right to privacy against “arrogant” attempts of the BJP government to curtail them. To Law Minister Prasad’s claim that government has consistently maintained that right to privacy should be a fundamental right, CPI(M) chief Sitaram Yechury tweeted: “The ridiculousness of this government’s attempted U-turn on right to privacy is amplified by Modi-Shah’s silence.” Yechury asked whether, as in the instant triple talaq case, “When will we see Shah credit Modi for right to privacy acknowledged as a fundamental right?” and ended his tweet with hashtag ‘post truth’. BJP chief Amit Shah tweeted a link to his blog on the issue at 8.12pm. This was in contrast from Tuesday when Shah had tweeted a detailed statement on the quashing of instant triple talaq by the SC by 12.35 pm, and by 2.09 pm had followed it up with a series of tweets and a video clip of welcoming the verdict. In his tweet at 1.45 pm on triple talaq verdict, PM had welcomed the judgment as historic. There was no statement yet from the Prime Minister’s Office on Thursday’s apex court verdict on the right to privacy at the time of filing of this report. In his blog, Shah welcomed the SC judgement "as it strengthens the Fundamental rights and personal liberty". Shah said: "Our government is committed to ensuring equitable social delivery, particularly to the poor in consonance" with the apex court judgement. Shah, Jaitley or Prasad were silent on Attorney General KK Venugopal having argued the government's position in the SC that right to privacy is a vague and amorphous right and cannot be held as a fundamental right. Instead, Shah and Prasad sought to refresh the memories of the Emergency years. In an attack on the Congress, the BJP chief said "some mischievous propaganda needs to be busted" and "those waxing eloquent today on privacy architecture are the ones who have ensured India does not have have a robust privacy laws for decades." He said: "Those commenting on Aadhaar are the same people who did not provide it a legal backing for years!"

First Published: Fri, August 25 2017. 01:26 IST