In a historic judgment, Supreme Court on Thursday ensured the right to privacy of every Indian citizen by identifying it as a fundamental right, protected under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
The nine-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar, quoted in the writings of the Nobel laureate, Amartya Sen to illustrate the intrinsic ‘development and freedom’ and establish least government censorship and intrusion in individual's privacy.
Taking references from Sen’s Development as Freedom (2000), The Idea of Justice (2009), and The Country of First Boys (2015), the judgment illustrates importance of freedom in a democratic process through examples of famine situation in sub-Saharan Africa and North Korea.
In Indian context, the court took to Sen’s analyses of British colonial regime’s response to Bengal famine of 1943.
The famine “was made viable not only by the lack of democracy in colonial India but also by severe restrictions on reporting and criticism imposed on the Indian press, and the voluntary practice of ‘silence’ on the famine that the British-owned media chose to follow,” the Nobel laureate noted in ‘Idea of Justice’.
The SC, in its judgment, says that his analysis reveals that the political immunity enjoyed by government leaders in authoritarian states prevents effective measures being taken to address such conditions.
Political liberties and democratic rights are hence regarded as ‘constituent components’ of development, Sen had written.
“The causal connection between democracy and the nonoccurrence of famines is not hard to seek. Famines kill millions of people in different countries in the world, but they don’t kill the rulers. The kings and the presidents, the bureaucrats and the bosses, the military leaders and the commanders never are famine victims.
“And if there are no elections, no opposition parties, no scope for uncensored public criticism, then those in authority don’t have to suffer the political consequences of their failure to prevent famines.
“Democracy, on the other hand, would spread the penalty of famines to the ruling groups and political leaders as well. This gives them the political incentive to try to prevent any threatening famine, and since famines are in fact easy to prevent (the economic argument clicks into the political one at this stage), the approaching famines are firmly prevented, Send said in Development as Freedom.
The judgment through Sen’s words establishes that there is an intrinsic relationship between development and freedom.
“…development cannot really be seen merely as the process of increasing inanimate objects of convenience, such as raising the GNP per head, or promoting industrialization or technological advance or social modernization… For adult human beings, with responsibility for choice, the focus must ultimately be on whether they have the freedom to do what they have reason to value. In this sense, development consists of expansion of people’s freedom,” the judgment said in words of the economist.