In the public interest
- India to convey concerns over Ladakh incursion to Chinese Premier
- IPL spot-fixing case: Delhi Police to trace money trail in four cities
- IPL 2013 LIVE SCORE: Mumbai Indians bowl, Sachin Tendulkar misses out
- Rajapaksa slams Tamil diaspora for lack of support in reconciliation process
- 5 differently abled orphan girls beaten, raped in Jaipur residential school
Recently, the prime minister raised concerns about RTI applications encroaching on the right to privacy. At this juncture, it may be worth remembering the case of "Auto Shankar" and his diary. About 20 years ago, an auto driver called Gauri Shankar, who had murdered more than six teenage girls, was convicted and sentenced to death. Before the appeals process was exhausted, he started writing a diary, which was to be published by a Tamil weekly. The "Auto Shankar" diary was said to contain unflattering portrayals of several senior IAS and IPS officers who, Shankar claimed, were his accomplices. To prevent the publication of the diary, the inspector general of prisons sent a letter to the editor of the publication, giving rise to an interesting contest between privacy and the freedom of the press.
While ruling on the case, the Supreme Court held, in no uncertain terms, that the publication was thoroughly legitimate and the right to privacy was limited by the right to freedom of speech and expression. It stated that privacy could not be extended to public documents and is not available to public officials when it comes to actions and conduct relevant to the discharge of their official duties. The law that naturally flows from the judgment states that public documents and authorities enjoy a conditioned and limited right to privacy.
Such an outcome is replicated in other cases where privacy is pitted against a competing interest, due to the nature of the adjudication. This includes cases where state interests are involved, such as telephone tapping or the declaration of the criminal records of electoral candidates, as well as cases where individual interests are at stake, such as a disclosure to prevent the transmission of AIDS, a DNA test to determine paternity or even the publication of the photograph of a willful defaulter for the recovery of debts. If constitutional adjudication can be pictured as a bout, the privacy right will be the featherweight matched against the heavyweight; it may put up a fight but it will ultimately get knocked out. In the absence of any constitutional imperative to absolutely protect individual privacy, it falls to individual statutes to protect it.
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- BCCI chief N Srinivasan says police must prove spot-fixing allegations