'Right to privacy has evolved to protect online data'

Right to privacy has evolved to protect not only telephonic conversations but also online data: Justice L N Rao

Representative image: iStock image

The right to privacy, recognised as a fundamental right by the Supreme Court, has evolved to protect not only telephonic conversations but also online data, an apex court judge said on Saturday.

Justice L Nageswara Rao said the evolution of the law assumes importance because it represents the progress of a nation and its social conditions, and that failure to evolve the law in accordance with the changing circumstances often leads to injustice.

"The right to privacy, which is a topic for panel discussion and which has been recognised as a fundamental right by the Supreme Court, has truly transformed in shape and form in the last 60 years of its existence in Indian law. While it was initially limited to dealing with issues of surveillance and protection of epistolary communications, it has now evolved to protect not only telephonic conversations but also protection of online data.

"It is this challenge of interpreting unchanged laws in light of vastly changed social and political contexts which courts constantly grapple with. Judges across countries would presumably deal with such issues differently. However, an understanding of different judicial approaches adopted across the globe would allow us to approach legal problems in a more holistic manner. This is essentially because in democracies, the fundamental values and goals on the basis of which judges discharge their duties remain similar," he said.

Speaking at the inaugural function of the International Judicial Conference here on the theme 'Judiciary and the Changing World', Justice Rao said that over a period of 70 years, the judges of the Supreme Court have been responsible for the independent and impartial dispensation of justice, apart from protecting the guaranteed rights of the people.

"Evolution of the law assumes importance because the law represents the progress of a nation and its social conditions, and the failure to evolve the law in accordance with the changing circumstances often leads to injustice. Each legal system has its own method of evolving laws but in most such systems, constitutional law plays an important role in ensuring that the changing circumstances are reflected in the law.

"This is so because constitutional law is understood to be constantly evolving. Therefore, it becomes incumbent upon the judiciary to provide constitutionally sanctioned methods of interpretation through which the laws are shaped to reflect the changed social facts," he said

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