The Supreme Court is all set to rule whether the Right to Privacy is a fundamental right in India. The verdict will come just three days ahead of Chief Justice of India (CJI) JS Khehar’s retirement on August 27. Pronouncing the verdict will be a nine-judge constitutional bench headed by the CJI. Meet the judges hearing the historic case:
Chief Justice JS Khehar
Jagdish Singh Khehar is the 44th Chief Justice of India and the first person from the Sikh community to hold the top post in the apex court. He succeeded Chief Justice TS Thakur on January 4, 2017. Khehar had been involved in major judgments in the past few years, including the 2G spectrum scam case and the case against Sahara chief Subrata Roy. He was elevated to the Supreme Court on September 13 2011, prior to which he served as the Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court. He is set to retire this Sunday.
Justice J Chelameswar
Justice Jasti Chelameswar, the third most senior judge in the Supreme Court after the CJI and Justice Dipak Misra, was appointed to the apex court on October 10, 2011. Prior to being named to the Supreme Court, he served as the Chief Justice of the Gauhati High Court from May 2007 to March 2010 and Chief Justice of the Kerala High Court from March 2010 to October 2011. Justice Chelameswar, along with Justice RF Nariman, was part of the two-judge constitutional bench that heard the landmark Shreya Singhal v. Union of India case in 2015 and struck down the contentious Section 66 (A) of the Information Technology Act, which gave powers to the police to arrest anyone posting emails or electronic messages that cause “annoyance or inconvenience”.
Justice SA Bobde
Justice Bodbe was elevated to the Supreme Court on April 12, 2013, prior to which he served as a judge in the Bombay High Court and Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court. Justice Bobde was part of the three-judge bench, which also included Justice Chelameswar and Justice Chokkalingam Nagappan, in 2015 which clarified that no citizen of India without an Aadhaar card can be denied basic services and government services. During the Right to Privacy trial, Justice Bobde had asked Senior lawyer Gopal Subramanium, who is appearing for the petitioners, “You are saying liberty, which includes privacy, is the bedrock of all rights.” Subramanium responded by saying liberty was a “pre-existing natural and inherent value” that the Constitution has recognized.
Justice RK Agrawal
Justice RK Agrawal was appointed to the Supreme Court on February 17, 2014. In October 2013, he was appointed the acting Chief Justice of the Madras High Court after his predecessor MY Eqbal was appointed to the Supreme Court.
Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman
He was a senior counsel at the Supreme Court of India before being elevated as a judge in the apex court on 7 July 2014. Notably, Nariman also served as India’s solicitor-general between 27 July 2011 and 4 February 2013. Son of distinguished jurist Fali S Nariman, he began his legal career in 1979. The 60-year-old jurist became a senior counsel in the Supreme Court in 1993. He is also known as a scholar on the Zoroastrian faith. Justice Nariman, along with Justice Chelameswar, was part of the two-judge constitutional bench that heard the landmark Shreya Singhal v. Union of India case in 2015 and struck down the contentious Section 66 (A) of the Information Technology Act, which gave powers to the police to arrest anyone posting emails or electronic messages that cause “annoyance or inconvenience”. Justice Nariman was also on the five-judge bench that, by a 3:2 majority, struck down the practice of Talaq-e-Biddat or instant Triple Talaq earlier this week. During the Right to Privacy trials, Justice Nariman had asked senior counsel Gopal Subramanium, appearing for the petitioners, “Your argument is that the constitutional right to privacy is much larger in dimension from the common law right to privacy, which is only confined to be left alone in my home, which is my castle?”
Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre
Justice AM Sapre was appointed to the Supreme Court on August 13, 2014 by then President Pranab Mukherjee. Prior to serving in the Supreme Court, Sapre served as the Chief Justice of the Gauhati High Court and also as the first ever Chief Justice of the Manipur High Court.
Justice DY Chandrachud
Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chandrachud was appointed to the Supreme Court on May 13, 2016. Prior to that, he was the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court and a judge of the Bombay High Court. He is a known expert on human rights. During the current hearings, Justice Chandrachud had observed, “Can this court define privacy? You can’t make a catalogue of what constitutes privacy. Privacy is so amorphous and includes everything… if we make any attempt to catalogue privacy it will have disastrous consequences” adding, “If I decide to co-habit with my wife, police can’t barge into my bedroom. That’s my privacy. Whether to send my children to school is not privacy because I have to send them to school under the Right to Education law.” He also questioned the petitioners’ assertion that the right to privacy was non-negotiable. “If people have put themselves in the public realm using technology, is that not a surrender of their right to privacy?” he asked.
Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul
Justice Kaul was appointed to the SC in February this year. He has earlier served as the Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and later as the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court. He also served as a judge of the Delhi High Court. In 2008, during his time in the Delhi HC, he had rejected a petition against painter MF Hussain accusing him of obscenity in a painting. “Pluralism is the soul of democracy. There should be freedom for the thought we hate. Freedom of speech has no meaning if there is no freedom after speech. The reality of democracy is to be measured by the extent of freedom and accommodation it extends,” he had said while delivering his judgment.
Justice S Abdul Nazeer
He was born in 1958 in Karnataka’s Moodbidri. According to Udayavani, a Kannada newspaper, Nazeer completed his B.Com degree at Mahaveera College in Moodbidri before obtaining a law degree from SDM Law College. He enrolled as an advocate in 1983 before being elevated as an additional judge of the Karnataka High Court in 2003. He became a permanent judge of the Karnataka High Court on 24 September 2004. Nazeer was elevated to the Supreme Court in February 2017. He was the only Muslim judge on the multi-faith five-judge bench that struck down instant Triple Talaq.