By Our Legal Correspondent
New Delhi, Nob 08 (IVC) The Honorable Supreme Court on Nov 07 highlighted the need to frame guidelines to protect privacy of journalists when their personal digital devices are seized by the Central Agencies.
In a significant step to protect the freedom of press, a Supreme Court Bench consisted of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia reminded the government that “privacy has been made a fundamental right”. The petitioner , Foundation for Media Professionals said journalists were endlessly harassed and that their digital devices even contain private photos. In some cases , taking away their digital devices robbed them of their ability to pay their children’s school fees.
“We have made privacy a fundamental right… What is the point of that?” Justice kaul asked the Centre, represented by Additional Solicitor General S V Raju.
Mr Raju said the petitioners wanted a virtual shutting out of investigative agencies. Disagreeing, Justice Kaul said, “There has to be a balancing of interests and proper guidelines need to be placed to protect the interests of the media professionals”.
The apex court directed Mr Raju to “work” on framing the guidelines and come back to the court on the next day of hearing , December 06.
Senior advocate Siddharth Agarwal , for the petitioner side, said there were “hundreds of journalists whose digital devices are taken away en masse”. He said there were no guidelines with reference to when and what may be seized, what can be accessed, and what kind of protection is ensured for personal data, health data, financial data.
“The entire digital footprint is on the device. Once an investigating agency is involved, it is not like the person can have a back up”, Mr Agarwal argued. The court said agencies cannot be given an all encompassing power to seize the personal digital devices of citizens. It said guidelines should be framed by the government, if not, by the court itself.