India court ruling that privacy is fundamental right casts doubt on ID card plan
India's top court has ruled that privacy is a fundamental right for every citizen in a landmark judgment that could affect a huge identity card system.
The verdict was in response to many petitions filed in courts questioning the validity of assigning a biometric identity card to every individual.
The government has made the identity card mandatory for all who want to access welfare, but human rights groups have raised concerns about the risk of personal data being misused.
"This is a very progressive judgment that endorses and protects the fundamental rights of the people," said Soli Sorabjee, a leading lawyer and former attorney general of India.
The ruling overturns two earlier decisions by smaller benches of the Supreme Court, which said privacy was not a fundamental right.
On Thursday, a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the right to privacy is intrinsic to the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution.
The decision is being viewed as a setback to the government's efforts to make the ID card compulsory.
The government will now have to convince the court that forcing citizens to give fingerprint samples and a scan of their iris is not a violation of privacy.