ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Healthy Dose of Privacy

The Supreme Court’s privacy judgment has important implications for the right to health, especially the protection of health information. The standards that laws will have to meet to impose restrictions on such protection are examined. In this context, the HIV/AIDS Act, 2017, the implications of a data protection law for health, and the unconstitutionality of mandatorily requiring Aadhaar to obtain treatment for HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis are discussed. 

The author is grateful to Shankar Narayanan for his inputs.

The almost academic nature of the Supreme Court’s judgment on the right to privacy in K Puttaswamy v Union of India (2017a) means that its practical implications will continue to be dissected until they fill several volumes. One of the most important impacts of the judgment is on health, and this article discusses its implications for the scope of the right and the extent to which it is to be balanced with other interests. Justice R F Nariman’s opinion highlights at least three aspects of the right to privacy, each of which has particular significance for health: privacy relatable to the physical body; informational privacy, vesting individual control over the dissemination of personal information; and the privacy of choice, granting individual autonomy over personal choices (K Puttaswamy v Union of India 2017c: para 81).

At various places, the judgment offers examples of the link between issues concerning health and the three aspects of privacy mentioned above. Justice J Chelameswar provides an example of bodily privacy by recognising that the refusal of life-prolonging medical treatment falls within the “zone of the right to privacy” (K Puttaswamy v Union of India 2017d: para 38). Justice D Y Chandrachud states that a reasonable expectation of privacy attaches to medical information (K Puttaswamy v Union of India 2017b: para 177), while personal reproductive choices, which have obvious implications for health, are also recognised to be at the core of the idea of privacy (K Puttaswamy v Union of India 2017b: part 3, para 3F).

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Updated On : 27th Dec, 2017
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