The Supreme Court of India made revolutionary changes to the manner in which the Indian State looks at privacy and individuality in India, through a series of judgments in the penultimate week of August 2017. In a country where privacy is secondary to public participation, the decision of the highest court in the land came as a welcome respite to activists and citizens alike.
The ruling government was quick to point out that the Right to Privacy, although recognised as fundamental, is not absolute and must be kept at par with other fundamental rights which have a varied history of being restricted with reason or from being exercised without care on consideration of the integrity of the country.
Some interpreted this view of the government as a reluctance to implementing the decision of the apex court, while others were relieved that the government would not actively obstruct the Right to Privacy guaranteed to citizens.
Although the ruling of the Supreme Court was a welcome interjection in a debate that was becoming increasingly hostile on both sides, it is unclear whether the State will implement the decision fully. In other words, it is still uncertain whether Indians will be able to enjoy this newly affirmed right fully.
Although we pride in being the largest democracy in the world, Indians are still deprived of the right to lead their life as they deem fit. Section 377 still criminalises something that is very personal by relying on a colonial law founded on the tenets of western decency and Christian faith and the right of a citizen to perform a simple task of opening a bank account is impeded by the possession of a government issued identity card. But after the Supreme Courts decision, these avenues may be challenged too.
The government must ensure that the police force of the nation is up-to-date with the current standing of the law. It is common to see the police arresting a citizen on laws that have no legal validity because of their repeal or due to the non-acknowledgement of a decision of the Supreme Court which has the force of law.
The citizens must also be vigilant in such circumstances. They must be aware of their rights and must not hesitate to state their rights when being unjustly detained or arrested for an action that is no longer a crime.
Recognising that it will still take time for the archaic laws to be repealed and the decision of the Supreme Court to be implemented properly and comprehensively, it is during this period of transition that vigilance is most required.
The Supreme Court is yet to hear cases which have a greater say on the matter of Right to Privacy, but one can only hope that the apex court follows in this streak and expands the constitutionally guaranteed rights of citizens.
One should also hope that the government will also protect the rights of its citizens with due respect given to the authority of the Supreme Court as Protector of the Indian Constitution. Otherwise, the rights of the people will be enforced only on paper while citizens suffer at the hands of injustice, due to lack of government implementation.