Justice KS Puttaswamy vs Union of India Case Explained

Justice KS Puttaswamy (Retd.) and Another vs Union of India and Others
Writ petition number: Writ Petition (Civil) No. 494 of 2012
Date of Judgement: 24.08.2017

Justice KS Puttaswamy (Retd.) vs Union of India is a landmark legal case that pertains to the right to privacy. The case involved a challenge to the government’s Aadhaar program, which aimed to establish a unique identification system for Indian residents. Here are the key details of the case.

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The case emerged against the backdrop of the Indian government’s ambitious Aadhaar project. The Aadhaar program aimed to create a comprehensive biometric identity system for Indian residents, assigning each individual a unique 12-digit Aadhaar number linked to their biometric and demographic data. This number was intended to serve as a means of identity verification for various government and private-sector services, including welfare distribution, banking, and telecommunications.


The primary issues addressed in this case were:

  1. Whether the right to privacy is a Fundamental Right protected under the Indian constitution.
  2. If the right to privacy is recognised as a Fundamental Right, whether the Aadhaar program violated this right.


In its historic judgment, the Supreme Court of India recognised the right to privacy as a Fundamental Right protected under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The court held that this right encompasses informational privacy, autonomy over personal data, and the right to control the dissemination of personal information.

Regarding the Aadhaar program, the court ruled that while it had potential benefits for government welfare and service delivery, there were concerns about the protection of individuals’ biometric and personal data.

The court emphasised the importance of informed consent, data protection, and the need for a robust data protection law.

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The court struck down certain provisions of the Aadhaar Act that allowed private companies to use Aadhaar data for authentication purposes, citing privacy concerns. However, it upheld the constitutionality of the Aadhaar program for government welfare schemes and subsidies, stating that it served a legitimate state interest.

The Puttaswamy judgment has triggered discussions on the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 because it highlighted the importance of protecting individuals’ privacy rights, including their personal data. The judgment emphasised the need for robust legal safeguards to ensure that individuals have control over their personal information and that it is processed in a fair and transparent manner.


The constitutionality of the Aadhaar scheme had been contested by retired Justice K.S. Puttaswamy of the Karnataka High Court. He claimed that the scheme infringed on his right to privacy.

A three-judge panel ruled that the right to privacy was guaranteed by the Indian Constitution and that a higher court should hear the matter.

A nine-judge panel rendered the verdict in this case. On August 24, 2017, a unanimous nine-judge Supreme Court bench declared in Justice K.S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India and other similar cases that each individual has a fundamental right to privacy.

Sravani Ravinuthala
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