RIGHT TO PRIVACY vs RIGHT TO KNOW (Syllabus: GS Paper 2 – Polity)

News-CRUX-10     10th April 2024        
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Context: The Supreme Court recently affirmed that election candidates retain a right to privacy, sparing them from disclosing every detail of their personal lives and possessions to voters.

Supreme Court observations:

  • A candidate’s choice to retain his privacy on matters which were of no concern to the voters or were irrelevant to his candidature for public office did not amount to a ‘corrupt practice’ under Section 123 and Section 36(4) of the RPA Act.
  • Section 123 of the Act defines corrupt practices as encompassing bribery, undue influence, dissemination of false information, and incitement or attempted incitement of hostility by a candidate.
  • Section 36(4) of the 1951 Act: The returning officer shall not reject any nomination paper on the ground of any defect which is not of a substantial character.

Right to Privacy vs Voter’s right to know:

  • In the cases of Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) in 2002 and People’s Union for Civil Liberties in 2003, the apex court mandated the disclosure of criminal antecedents, educational qualifications and financial assets, promoting voters’ right to make informed choices.
  • Constitutional Protection of right to Privacy: It finds its legal sanctuary within the Indian Constitution, specifically under Article 21 as pronounced in K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India in 2017, which safeguards the right to life and personal liberty. It includes: A right to bodily autonomy, A right to informational privacy, and A right to a privacy of choice.
  • The SC on balancing right to privacy & right to know: It stressed that a candidate’s right to privacy is unaffected by issues unrelated to voters or his public position, holding that not all movable assets must be disclosed unless they have a substantial impact on the candidate’s public persona or lifestyle.
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