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K. Puttaswamy v. Union of India, 2017

Case Name: K.S. Puttaswamy (Privacy-9J.) v. Union of India

Equivalent citation: (2017) 10 SCC 1

Date of judgement: 24 August, 2017

Court: Supreme Court of India

Case no.: Writ Petition (Civil) No 494 of 2012

Case type: Writ Petition (Civil)

Petitioner: K. Puttaswamy

Respondent: Union of India

Bench: (9 justice) J. S. Khehar, J. Chelameswar, S. A. Bobde, R. K. Agrawal, R. F. Nariman, A. M. Sapre, D. Y. Chandrachud, S. K. Kaul, and S. A. Nazeer 

Referred: Regarding Aadhar Act and Privacy law


The K. Puttaswamy v. Union of India case, sometimes known as the “Aadhaar case,” is a significant ruling by the Indian Supreme Court. The Aadhaar plan, which aims to produce a unique identity number for every individual by collecting their biometric and demographic data, is at the centre of the dispute, which principally concerns the constitutional legitimacy of the programme. 


The Government of India’s Aadhaar project aimed to coordinate numerous welfare programmes and guarantee effective service delivery. Individuals participating in this programme had to submit their biometric data as well as demographic data in order to receive a unique identification number. However, a number of issues were brought up involving the gathering, storing, and potential exploitation of personal data, as well as the violation of the right to privacy.

Issues Raised:

  1. Whether the Indian Constitution protects the right to privacy as a basic right.
  2. Whether the Aadhaar programme infringes upon one’s right to privacy.
  3. Whether the Aadhaar programme complies with the Constitution and is reasonable.

Petitioners’ contention:

The petitioners claimed that Article 21 of the Indian Constitution’s guarantee of the essential rights to life and personal liberty includes an inherent component that is the right to privacy. They argued that the Aadhaar scheme’s collecting of biometric and demographic data violated their right to privacy because it constituted an extensive surveillance system. The petitioners also highlighted the lack of adequate controls and raised their worries about possible government and other entity misuse of personal data.

Respondents’ contention: 

The respondents, speaking on behalf of the Union of India, contended that the Constitution does not expressly recognise the right to privacy as a basic right. They argued that gathering biometric and demographic information was essential for the effective management of social programmes and to stop theft and leakage of public funds. The claim made by the respondents was that the Aadhaar programme was reasonable and appropriate to fulfil the legal objective of guaranteeing the prompt distribution of social benefits.

Ratio Decidendi:

The Supreme Court’s majority opinion, or Ratio Decidendi, declared that the right to privacy is in fact a basic freedom protected by the Indian Constitution. The court acknowledged the basic relationship between privacy and the ideas of liberty and dignity, as well as the significance of privacy in the exercise of other fundamental rights. The importance of privacy in preserving individual autonomy and freedom of choice was highlighted by the court as it carefully considered many dimensions of privacy. The majority opinion was that the Aadhaar scheme’s acquisition of personal data could result in surveillance and other privacy infringement. The court did, however, take into account the legitimate objectives of the government in putting the plan into place, such as effective administration and avoiding leaks in social programmes.

According to the majority opinion, any violation of the right to privacy must pass the proportionality test. The court acknowledged that the Aadhaar scheme might be regarded as reasonable and proportionate to fulfil legitimate state goals when certain safeguards are in place. The court recognised the importance of strict data protection regulations, consent-based data collecting, and the restricted use of Aadhaar for certain purposes. The majority opinion established rules to safeguard people’s privacy and achieve a balance between the rights of individuals and the interests of the state.

Ratio Decidendi – Minority View: 

Although there wasn’t a clear minority opinion in this case, a few judges voiced their disapproval of some features of the Aadhaar programme. They recognised the value of the plan in stopping leaks and guaranteeing effective welfare service delivery. However, these justices emphasised the requirement for more robust controls and adjustments to address privacy issues. They emphasised the need for a careful balance between the protection of individual privacy and the government’s legitimate goals. These justices recommended that the required Aadhaar linkage with other services be reviewed and that stronger safeguards be put in place to protect personal information and avoid its misuse.


The Supreme Court maintained the constitutional viability of the Aadhaar system by a vote of 4:1. The Indian Constitution protects the right to privacy as a basic right, according to the court. This important decision confirmed that privacy is a crucial component of personal autonomy, dignity, and decision-making.

The court recognised the potential dangers connected to the Aadhaar scheme’s collecting and storage of personal data. However, it also acknowledged the significance of the plan in advancing reputable state objectives, such as efficient government, the administration of welfare, and leakage prevention. The court noted that the plan can balance protecting individual privacy while still delivering services effectively with the right protections.

The court issued a number of rules to protect people’s privacy in order to meet the issues brought up by the petitioners and the minority viewpoint. These regulations included gaining informed consent before collecting data, restricting the use of Aadhaar, and putting in place strong data protection mechanisms. The court emphasised the necessity of creating a strong data protection framework in order to secure individual data.

The ruling in the K. Puttaswamy v. Union of India case established the value of privacy protection in the digital era and recognised the right to privacy as a basic right. It accepted the need to strike a balance between the defence of personal privacy and the legitimate interests of the government.

In conclusion, the Aadhaar case judgement by the Supreme Court had significant ramifications for India’s privacy rights. It affirmed the Aadhaar program’s constitutional legality, acknowledged the fundamental right to privacy, and offered regulations to guarantee the privacy of individual citizens. The decision emphasised the necessity of a strong data protection framework and stressed the significance of informed consent, restricted usage, and stringent protections when collecting and retaining personal data. In defining the boundaries of privacy rights and influencing the future of data protection in India, this case sets a major precedent.

written by Gauranshi Jindal intern under legal vidhiya


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