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Right To Privacy In India


The English dictionary meaning of privacy is “someone's right to keep their personal matters and relationships secret" whereas according to Black’s Law Dictionary, Right to Privacy means “right to be let alone”; the right of a person to be free from any unwarranted interference. Privacy as a matter of right has been a subject of debate, however it has not been defined under the Indian jurisprudence. Instead, cases like M.P. Sharma v. Satish Chandra, District Magistrate, Delhi (1954) and Kharak Singh V. State 0f. UP. (1962) merely defined whether privacy is a part of fundamental rights in our constitution, without elaborating or defining what privacy is and therefore there was a lack of compressive jurisprudence in relation to privacy.

In the case of Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) and Anr. Vs Union of India, while defining Privacy Justice D. Y. Chandrachud touched upon the views of Historically political thinkers like William Black Stone, Austin, Aristotle, etc. The right to privacy is dignity individual, “Life and personal liberty are inalienable rights. These are rights which are inseparable from a dignified human existence. The dignity of the individual, equality between human beings and the quest for liberty are the foundational pillars of the Indian constitution”.

Also, Justice Krishan Kaul of the Hon’ble Supreme Court defined privacy as a natural right. It is an inherent right is something that isn’t give but exists. He further observed that an aspect of Privacy includes an individual’s right to control dissemination of his personal information, an aspect which has assumed particular significance in this information age and in view of technological improvements.

Privacy Rights and Personality Rights

Privacy right is concept that evolved in the United States of American, whereas Personality rights is more of a European concept and has its roots in the long history of Germany and France. The term. ‘personality right' is also commonly used for 'right to publicity' and is usually relates to celebrities or famous people.

In other words, "it is the right to control. and profit from the commercial use of. One’s name, image, likeness, etc., and it prevents unauthorized appropriation of. the same for commercial purposes "the main distinction between the doctrine of. right to privacy and doctrine of personality rights is that. the right to privacy is primarily conceived as negative right, which saves an individual’s be left alone whereas the personality rights also includes a person’s interest to represent himself/herself. or. could also be called as the commercial use of. his/her identity.

In the Supreme Court constitutional bench judgment Justice Kaul observers “Every individual should have a right to be able to exercise control over his/her own life and image as the world and to control commercial use of his/her identity. This also means individual may be permitted to prevent others from using his image, name and other aspects of. his/her personal life and identity for commercial purposes without his/her consent”.

In today’s world, privacy acts as a constraint not only against the government but also against private sector entities. Apart from corporations, Right to Privacy can also claimed against individual actors such as media houses and private individuals. Though, there has been considerable conflict between media rights and a person’s right to privacy, we argue that infringement of privacy can only be justified when there is a compelling public interest, as opposed to stories that merely interest the public such as gossip which often come at the cost of infringement of privacy.

Right to Control One’s Image as Portrayed: Celebrity Information

Media and public figures have been involved in a lot of controversies regarding issues of.privacy with celebrities. It is a fairly common to see celebrity photographs taken by paparazzi an d being published in different media platforms. Very recently, a photograph of Indian actors Ranbir Kapur and Mira.Khan.smoking a cigarette emerged on social media and went viral. The responses to the same varied from people expressing contempt to the female actor being sexualised amongst many other things.

Important question arose due to this debacle, namely, did the celebrities give up their right to privacy owing to their stature? Whether the ‘truthful nature’ of the information was a justification for the publishing and lastly whether they gave up their right by being in a ‘public space’?

Sadly enough, there isn’t proper legislative protection against such infringement. Press Council of India (PCI) norms lay own guidelines for reporting cases which recognises privacy as an inviolable fundamental right. However, interviews from journalists themselves reveal that such protection is only extended in ‘private spaces’ and once information comes in the public domain, it no longer falls within the sphere of private, thereby make a distinction between warranted and unwarranted invasion of privacy. In such situations, the need for a stringent deeply grant effective protection to subjects who are susceptible to having their intimate information disclosed to public due to their stature.

I would touch on four other key aspects, which are very relevant in the Modern day Era. As, Technology has become a key aspect of our lives.

Online Shaming

Shame is a highly complex, intriguing and nuanced concept. In other words, shame is simultaneously an emotion, and a norm (condemning what is shameful). equally important work of scholarship on shame, Bernard Williams examines Homeric Greek shame culture and its relevance to contemporary time. Not just celebrities but even the common man is a risk of privacy infringement by another. online shaming has become a prominent phenomenon in recent times. This new form of shaming involves the exposure of personal identifiable information of. targeted individuals, who are perceived to have transgressed different degrees of social norms (though often violated none or only mi nor legal offences), for the purpose of humiliation, social condemnation and punishment.

Cyber Bullying

Encompassing term for the shaming described in this paper. It has been defined as, “any behavior performed through electronic or digital media by individuals or groups that repeatedly communicates hostile or aggressive messages intended to inflict harm or discomfort on others It is identified as a separate category to tease out its differences, as will be seen, concerning the privacy issues of a person like Justine Sacco or the Vancouver rioters and some of the more traditional cases of children being bullied online.


This category concerns an identifiable group attacked on the basis of their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, color or ethnic origin. These are more classic cases of hate speech, explored further below, except in situations of online shaming the attack is executed by the mob, further stigmatizing and excluding the victim. A study by the Pew Internet Centre Found that 40% of women report having been harassed online. A recent survey of over 1000.women in Australia found that 76% of women under 30 surveyed had experienced online harassment. The Guardian newspaper analysed 70 million comments left by users on its site and found that they had blocked 2% for violating their community standards. Of the top 10 abused writers, eight were women (four white, four non-white) and the remaining two were black men.


One of the most striking phenomena of social media is vigilantes outing individuals that break social and legal rules. The power of sharing as communicating with large number of people has resulted in policing of one’s view. One of the best example is the Social Media War between Leftist and Rightist in today’s time. In our country itself, we are bombarded with views of different people with their ideology and arguments. Surely, Social Media is a platform to share but the biggest drawback, when we slide line or shame people for their views. Such act amounts to Social Media Vigilantism, where people mostly tend to disregard the Liberty and platform given to them. At times to curb such a problem people object by saying that their Constitutional Rights are being violated. But people tend to forget such acts of Social Vigilantism, becomes a problem for an Individual or any Minority living in the Society.


The enactment of law and its modifications w.r.t to changing times is a slow process. Most of the laws in India are colonial in nature whereas the technological developments are like a chemical reaction that is spontaneous and constantly changing. While the Indian government is still making temples and protecting the void for legislation in the field of personal right enlarges. Most of the legislators do not understand technology and privacy is not the major concern of public at large.

By: Siddhant Singh (Advocate)
M/s Aura & Company
Date: 04/03/2021