UP govt caused “unwarranted interference in privacy”, says HC

Allahabad HC directed Lucknow administration to remove the banners and filed compliance report by March 16.

Anti CAA

In response to the arbitrary and undemocratic actions of UP state government, the Allahabad High Court was compelled to take suo moto cognizance and hold hearings on Sunday, March 8. The Lucknow administration put up banners with photographs and personal details of more than 50 persons who were accused vandalism during the anti-CAA protests of December 2019. The poster is seeking compensation from the accused persons and further to confiscate their property, if they failed to pay compensation.

Noticing injury to the right of privacy, the Chief Justice of this Court directed the Registry to register a petition for writ in public interest. The Commissioner of Police, Lucknow and District Magistrate, Lucknow were called upon to explain the provisions under which the banners were placed on road side that also causes interference in movement of traffic in crowded areas.

While defending the state of UP, Advocate General even challenged the territorial jurisdiction of the court and termed the state’s action to be bonafide. The Court said that this PIL resulting from its suo moto cognizance is justified given that the law is disobeyed and the public is put to suffering and where the precious values of the constitution are subjected to injuries. The Bench, led by the Chief Justice held that this incident amounted to gross negligence on part of public authorities and government and as a constitutional court it can take notice of it on its own.

The Court further held thus, “The Court in such matters is not required to wait necessarily for a person to come before it to ring the bell of justice. The Courts are meant to impart justice and no court can shut its eyes if a public unjust is happening just before it.”

The Court while emphasizing on right to privacy, stated, “In the case in hand, a valid apprehension of causing serious injury to the rights protected under Article 21 of the Constitution of India exists which demands adequate treatment by the Court at its own. The economic status of the persons directly affected in such matters is not material. The prime consideration before the Court is to prevent the assault on fundamental rights, especially the rights protected under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”

The Court, while establishing its jurisdiction, deemed the “cause” in this case to be, “not about personal injury caused to the persons whose personal details are given in the banner but the injury caused to the precious constitutional value and its shameless depiction by the administration. The cause as such is undemocratic functioning of government agencies which are supposed to treat all members of public with respect and courtesy and at all time should behave in manner that upholds constitutional and democratic values.”

The Court held that while the state may take steps to ensure maintenance of law and order, but it cannot violate fundamental rights of the people in doing so. The Court also observed that while under  Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, the power is available to a Court to publish a written proclamation requiring appearance of a persons against whom a warrant has been issued, No other power is available in the Code to police or the Executive to display personal records of a person to public at large.

The Court further cited several judgments of the Supreme Court, which have established right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution of India; including the very recent Justice Puttaswamy (Retd.) judgment [K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) and another Vs. Union of India and others, 2015 (8) SCC 735]. In this judgment, the individual right to privacy in a democracy was further solidified and got entrenched as a constitutional right and as an intrinsic component of Part III of Constitution of India.

While the court noted that the right to privacy is not an absolute right, and that  persons privacy interests can be overridden by compounding state and individual interests subject to satisfaction to certain tests and bench marks, it held that no law is in existence permitting the State to place the banners with personal data of the accused from whom compensation is to be charged.

The Court held that the accused persons are not fugitives and the state of UP had failed to satisfy the court as to why placement of the banners is necessary for a democratic society for a legitimate aim. The Court deemed that the placement of banners with personal details of accused persons even failed the tests of liability, legitimate goal, proportionately and procedural guarantees; as laid out by the apex court’s nine-judge bench in the Justice Puttaswamy case.

The Court deemed these actions of the state to be “colourable exercise of powers by the Executive” which amounted to violation of Article 21 of the Constitution.

The Court then directed the District Magistrate, Lucknow and the Commissioner of Police, Lucknow Commissionerate, Lucknow to remove the banners from the road side forthwith and file compliance report by March 16. The court also directed the state of UP not to place such banners on road side containing personal data of individuals without having authority of law.

The judgement may be read here:



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