Meet the 9 Judges Who Ruled That Privacy is a Fundamental Right
Who are the nine judges who decided the fate of Right to Privacy?
(A nine-judge Supreme Court bench, on 23 August, unanimously ruled that privacy is a fundamental right. In light of this development, The Quint is reposting this article from its archives.)
A nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court has ruled that privacy is a fundamental right under the Indian Constitution. The decision to refer the matter to a larger bench was taken by the apex court while hearing challenges to the validity of Aadhaar.
The bench re-examined whether the two earlier rulings – 1954 judgment in MP Sharma’s case and 1962 verdict in Kharak Singh’s case – are the correct expressions of the Constitution. An eight-judge and a six-judge bench, in the two cases, respectively, had held that there is no fundamental right to privacy.
Here is a look at the nine-judge bench:
Justice JS Khehar
Chief Justice of India Justice JS Khehar is the senior-most member on the bench. Elevated to the apex court in the year 2013, Justice Khehar has heard important constitutional cases like the National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC) as well as other cases such as 'equal pay for equal work', the 2G spectrum scam and the SEBI-Sahara case where he was part of the bench which sent Subrata Roy to jail.
Justice Khehar took over as the Chief Justice of India in January, 2017. While he was a judge at the Punjab and Haryana High Court, he passed a judgement on Sikh identity and held that once a court has held a particular aspect of a religion is fundamental to it, it cannot be challenged on any other ground.
Justice Chelameswar headed the bench which delievered the 11 August 2015 order on Aadhaar referring it to a constitution bench. He is also part of the Constitution bench which will hear the Aadhaar case.
He was the lone dissenting on the bench which struck down the NJAC. Justice Chelameswar has, on several occasions, voiced his disagreements on the selection procedure for judges, most recently in the Justice Karnan contempt case.
Justice Chelameswar also was part of the two-judge bench which struck down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 which allowed people to be jailed for online posts which could be considered offensive.
Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde
Justice Bobde joined the bench as an Additional Judge of the Bombay High Court and went on to become Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court. He was elevated as a Supreme Court judge in April, 2013.
He, along with with Justice Chelameswar, was part of the bench which pronounced the 11 August 2015 order on the Aadhaar case referring it to a constitution bench.
Justice DY Chandrachud
Justice DY Chandrachud, son of former Chief Justice of India Justice YV Chandrachud, joined the bench as a judge of the Bombay High Court on 29 March 2000. After serving a stint as Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court, he joined the Supreme Court bench in 2016.
Justice Chandrachud served on the constitution bench which banned seeking votes on religious grounds. He, however, took a dissenting view in this judgement. The dissenting judgement in the case read as follows:
To hold that a person who seeks to contest an election is prohibited from speaking of the legitimate concerns of citizens that the injustices faced by them on the basis of traits having an origin in religion, race, caste, community or language would be remedied is to reduce democracy to an abstraction.
Justice Chandrachud had also heard the Vodafone tax case as a judge of the Bombay High Court. The decision was subsequently overturned by the Supreme Court.
Justice S Abdul Nazeer
Justice Nazeer is the youngest member on the bench for the Aadhaar case. He was elevated to the Surpeme in Court on 17 February 2017.
He has served as a judge of the Karnataka High Court since 2003 till he was elevated to the apex court.
Justice Nazeer was part of the constitution bench in the triple talaq case, judgement on which has been reserved by the apex court for later.
Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman
Son of famous jurist, Senior Advocate Fali Nariman and a leading lawyer in his own right, Justice Rohinton Nariman was appointed to the Supreme Court in July 2014. An ordained Parsi priest, he also served as the Solicitor General of India between July 2011 and February 2013.
He was made Senior Advocate at the age of 37 after the then Chief Justice of India amended the rules for him. The mandatory age to be appointed Senior Counsel at that time was 45.
Along with Justice Chelameswar, Justice Nariman authored the judgement which struck down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act.
In another judgement, he held that the review petition for death row convicts must be held in open court, in a departure from the in-chamber hearing of such cases.
Recently, Justice Nariman was also on the Constitution bench which is deciding the validity of triple talaq.
Justice RK Agarwal
A specialist in tax law during his career as an advocate, Justice RK Agarwal joined the bench as a judge of the Allahabad High Court in 1999. He also served as the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court before being elevated as a Supreme Court judge in 2014.
Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul
Before being appointed as a Supreme Court judge in 2017, Justice Kaul served as the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court. He was appointed as a permanent High Court Judge in 2003. Justice Kaul served as an advocate on record of the Supreme Court between 1987 and 1999 and was designated as a senior advocate in 1999. Justice Kaul has also served as the Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
Justice Kaul has penned several judgments upholding the freedom of speech and expression. In 2008, he quashed the case of obscenity against painter MF Hussain and in 2016 against acclaimed writer Perumal Murugan.
This is what the bench, headed by Justice Kaul, had observed in the Perumal Murugan case:
It is a matter of concern that as an evolving society, our tolerance level seems to be on the decline. Any contra view or social thinking is met at times with threats or violent behaviour. Our greatest problem today is fundamentalism which is the triumph of the letter over the spirit.
Justice AB Sapre
Justice AB Sapre assumed charge as a judge in the Supreme Court on 13 August 2014. After enrolling as an advocate in 1978, Justice Sapre practiced in civil, constitutional and labour-related cases until he was appointed as an Additional Judge of the Madhya Pradesh High Court in 1999.
He also served as the first Chief Justice of the Manipur High Court and later as the Chief Justice of the Gauhati High Court until his elevation to the apex court.
(This BloombergQuint article was first published on 19 July. It has been reposted from The Quint’s archives in the light of the nine-judge bench unanimously ruling that privacy is a fundamental right.)
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