Kharak Singh v. The State of U. P. & Ors

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 18/12/1962

COURT: Supreme Court of India

JUDGES: Justice Ayyangar N. Rajagopala, Justice Sinha Buvaneshwar P, Justice Immam Syed Jaffer, Justice K. Subba Rao, Justice Sha J.C, Justice Mudholkar J.C

REFERENCE: 1963 AIR 1295

PARTIES:

Petitioner: Kharak Singh

Respondent: The State of U. P. & Ors

SUBJECT: The judgment revolves around certain aspects of individual privacy way back in 1962 when right to privacy was not a fundamental right under Article 21.

FACTS: The petitioner was accused of dacoity but was later released as there were no sufficient evidence against him. But the police created a history sheet and he was put under surveillance. Under regulation 236 of U.P. Police regulation surveillance involves secret picketing of the house or approaches to the houses of the suspects, domiciliary visits at night, periodical enquiries by officers not below the rank of Sub-Inspector into repute, habits, association, income, expenses and occupation, the reporting by constables and chaukidars of movements and absences from home, the verification of movements and absences by means of inquiry slips and the collection and record on a history sheet of all

information bearing on conduct. The petitioner frustrated with continuous police surveillance challenged the validity of the U.P. Police Regulations under Article 32 of the Constitution.

IMPORTANT PROVISIONS:

The Indian Constitution:

  • Article 21: No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.
ISSUES:
  1. Whether the U.P. Police Regulation violated personal liberty of an individual guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution?
  2. Whether right to privacy is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution?
ANALYSIS OF THE JUDGEMENT:

The petitioner contends that,

  • Surveillance as mentioned under regulation 236 grossly infringes the personal liberty of an individual guaranteed under the Constitution.
  • Without any justification the petitioner was asked to visit the police station at mid nights to answer few questions.
  • Harsh knocks at the house door at mid nights by the police just to check if he was there at home or not.
  • Even if he wanted to leave the town, he had to inform the Chaukidhar or the village head who were nowhere related to him.

Rebutting these contentions, the respondent contends that,

  • Such regulations were enacted in public interest to prevent the future happening of any crime.
  • Right to privacy not being a fundamental right the regulation stands valid from the view of larger public interest and there is no fundamental right violation hence the petition is liable to be dismissed.
  • The provision is well within the ambit of “procedure established by law” under Article 21 of the Constitution and hence not violative.

Upon hearing the parties to the case, the Court concluded that, the regulation 236 to the extent it permits domiciliary visits will be unconstitutional as it is a clear violation of personal liberty under Article 21. However, the rest of the provision stands valid in the lights of public interest.

CONCLUSION: Though privacy was not recognised as a fundamental right back then, the Court prevented State’s invasion into personal matters of an individual by rightfully interpreting the term “personal liberty”. Also, any procedure established by law must be just fair and reasonable if not when subjected to judicial scrutiny it will be declared void.

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