Friday, September 7, 2012

National Security, Privacy Rights And Right To Information In India

Privacy laws in India and privacy rights in India are two issues that have never received the attention of Indian government. Some have even claimed that Indian government is suppressing privacy rights in India deliberately. This argument now seems to be very convincing especially if we keep in mind the latest developments and lack of legislative and political will on the part of Indian parliament and Indian government.

Privacy rights and laws in India are required for protecting human rights in cyberspace that are presently missing in India. The matter is already pending in Supreme Court of India and it has a great chance to strengthen privacy rights in India in the IT era keeping in mind the national security and public interest requirements. However, the balance between various fundamental rights must be maintained by the Supreme Court of India.

According to Praveen Dalal, leading techno legal expert of Asia and managing partner of ICT law firm Perry4Law, “The Indian Constitutional Scheme is based upon “Balance of Rights” and no right is absolute in nature. In case of conflict between two Fundamental Rights, the Fundamental Right that strengthens and substantiate the Public Interest should prevail”. Hence if there is a conflict between Right to Privacy and Right to Information/know, information can be disclosed in certain circumstances to substantiate and strengthen Public Interest, opines Dalal.  

According to this expert legal opinion, the Supreme Court of India is well within its rights to allow disclosure of conversation details between Ratan Tata and Nira Radia. Agrees Praveen Dalal who believes that not all tapped conversations can be labeled as “Private” or pertaining to “National Security” and barring few “Exceptional Disclosures” all other can be made “Public” by the Supreme Court of India.

The Supreme Court of India must not unnecessarily put a “Blanket Ban” upon disclosure or publication of such conversations as that would amount to “Unreasonable Curtailment” of other Fundamental Rights like Right to Information, opines Praveen Dalal. The “National Security Card” should not be used by any individual or institution, including the Supreme Court of India, to defeat the Constitutional Protections and Safeguards, suggests Praveen Dalal.

Nations all over the world are enacting laws whose primary purpose is to strengthen unlawful interceptions through the instrumentality of laws. Since this is going to be challenged by people, nations are playing the card of “national security” by creating fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD factor). I hope Indian Supreme Court would not be swayed away by the national security aspect too much and unnecessarily.