Tussle Between Right to Information and Right to Privacy

The most Supreme law of India is the Constitution of India. It contains the rights of the citizens and the duties or powers of the government. Part III of the constitution deals with the Fundamental Rights of the citizens, including the Right to Freedom, the Right to Equality, the Right to Freedom of Religion, the Right to Constitutional Remedies, the Right against Exploitation, and Cultural and Educational Rights. Among all the given rights there are two Fundamental Rights between which the balance is required. The right to Information and another right recently recognized by our Supreme Court of India in the case of Justice K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India is the Right to Privacy. Since then, there has been a tussle between both the Fundamental Rights.
As per the Oxford Dictionary of Law privacy has been defined as “right to be left alone. The right to a private life..”. It can be reiterated by the definition that every individual has a right to keep their personal information private. Indian judiciary has well acknowledged the same by extending the purview of Article 21 of the Constitution and validating the Right to Privacy as a Fundamental Right.
‘Article 21. No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.’
Though the Right to Privacy has been granted as a Fundamental Right but it’s not an absolute one. The right of Privacy needs to be exercised with certain limitations and restrictions. If the matters are about National Security and Public Safety, Public Interest, Scientific or Historic Research, and Criminal Offences, etc. then an individual cannot exercise this particular right.
On the other hand, the Right to Information is enshrined under Article 19(1) of the Constitution of India. The Supreme Court of India has upheld in the case of Raj Narain v. State of Uttar Pradesh, that the citizens of India have the right to know about the workings of government as they are masters in an Indian Democratic system.
‘19. Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech, etc.—(1) All citizens shall have the
(a) to freedom of speech and expression;
(b) to assemble peaceably and without arms;
(c) to form associations or unions [or co-operative societies];
(d) to move freely throughout the territory of India;
(e) to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India; [and]
(g) to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.’

The landmark case of Bennett Coleman and Co. v. Union of India recognized the freedom of the press in India. The Right to Information was also added under the purview of the Right of Freedom of Speech and Expression which is given under Article 19(1)(a).
In the case of SP Gupta v. Union of India, the Court established that an individual should have the right to know every public act and every detail of every public transaction performed by any public functionary.

Tussle Between the Right to Privacy and Right to Information
The right to Privacy and the Right to Information are contradictory to each other. Usually, they are considered as the two sides of a coin. If an individual exercises the Right to Information then the Right to Privacy suffers. However one can only use the Right to Information if the information is for ‘public good’. However, our Judiciary has been successful in establishing a balance between both crucial rights.
In the case of Union of India v. Association for the Democratic Reforms, the Supreme Court of India held that the candidates who are contending for elections either for parliament or state legislature, candidates, and their spouse’s data such as assets and liabilities can be collected by the Election Commission.
Supporting the judgement, in the case of PUCL v. Union of India, where it has been argued that getting access to the information related to the assets and liabilities of the candidate’s spouse is violative of their fundamental right. However, the court held that this would advance the right to information of the voters and the citizenry. The court also added if the information is for public good then the Right to Information will prevail over the Right to Privacy.
The jurisprudence is extremely clear of the fact that the Right to Information will overpower the Right to Privacy only where there is an element of ‘greater public good’. In the case of Canara Bank v. C.S. Shyam reaffirmed the same where it was held that disclosing the personal information of Canara Bank’s employee is not necessary as the information doesn’t suffice the element of ‘greater public good’.
However, there has not been any strict rule by the judiciary to create a balance between both rights. They are taking a case-to-case approach to find the right balance. Lately, the government on the other hand has been active in maintaining the privacy of the citizens. Recently, the Data Protection Act has been passed, and through this act, the government is spreading its horizons to make a safe place for the individual in the technological world also.

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