Baba Ramdev Judgment: Right to Privacy of Sleep against Private Persons (?)

Baba Ramdev judgment, available here, is basically a judgment on the legality of implementation of ex-parte order dt. 04.06.2011 passed by the ACP, Kamala Market, Central Distt., Delhi, u/s 144 CrPC. However, the judgment by Hon’ble Justice B. S. Chauhan is also a primer on the right to privacy u/a 21 of the Indian Constitution. The judgment has very clearly identified the right to privacy of sleep as a right to not being disturbed while asleep, wherever and whenever; however, it is not the right to fall asleep, wherever and whenever.
This judgment could have had wide ramifications but only if it was enforceable against private persons – I would have loved to see it being enforced against the “Big Bosses”. However, there is still hope.
The main problem arises because of an old judgment passed in Vidya Verma through next friend R. V. S. Mani v.Dr. Shiv Narain Verma, [1955] 2 SCR 983, in which, while referring to the A. K. Gopalan judgment, it was held that the rights u/a 21 of the Indian constitution are not enforceable against private persons; the logic was that, since “law” in India means the state made “positive law” but not the law in abstract, the use of word “law” in article 21 can’t make article 21 enforceable against anybody but the state. 
However, the conception of “law” has changed over time. In the Maneka Gandhi judgment, Hon’ble Justice Krishna Iyer has clearly held the “law” to mean the wider “natural law” (i.e. “dharma”) and not just “positive law”. However, the majority judgment has opined that only the “procedure” established by “law” needs to be non-arbitrary, deriving the basis from the procedural fairness guaranteed u/a 14 of the Indian Constitution; the procedural fairness of article 14 was found to be applicable in article 21 as well, or, in other words, the two articles were found to be existing as part of the same continuum but not in isolation. But, soon thereafter, vide 44th amendment of the constitution, article 21 was put up at a higher pedestal; it was provided that the power to suspend the right to move the court for the enforcement of a fundamental right during emergency cannot be exercised in respect of the fundamental right to life and liberty guaranteed u/a 21; this means that the continuum as propounded in the Maneka Gandhi judgment was overruled by implication, or, in other words, the majority judgment in the Maneka Gandhi case was overruled by the parliament; and the only judgment that remains now to ensure procedural fairness u/a 21 is that of Hon’ble Justice Iyer, but Hon’ble Justice Iyer’s judgment not only ensures procedural fairness but also non-arbitrary law, i.e. the “due process of law”. There are many judgments after the 44th amendment wherein the procedural fairness u/a 21 has been upheld by the Hon’ble Supreme Court, which means Hon’ble Justice Iyer’s judgment has been applied – majority judgment can’t be applied for the reasons stated above.              
In the above premises, the right u/a 21 is available against private persons as well because the old notion of “law” being the state made “positive law” has been clearly replaced by Hon’ble Justice Iyer’s judgment in Maneka Gandhi’s case as applied by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in many subsequent cases. If not, all the judgments in which procedural fairness u/a 21 has been upheld by the Hon’ble Supreme Court after the 44th amendment, are illegal and void; or, in other words, it can lead to unbearably absurd situation which is against the rules of interpretation, so the only interpretation is that “law” as occurring in article 21 means “natural law” and not just “positive law”.
I started my adventure into law with this puzzle 7 years ago, but, at that time, couldn’t convince the Supreme Court. But, it seems, the position has not changed till now, with the latest case being that of Ratan Tata. I hope somebody will change it.

© 2012 Ankur Mutreja

About the Author

Ankur Mutreja
Ankur Mutreja is an advocate-cum-writer, and his blogs are amongst his modes of expression. He has also authored six books: "Kerala Hugged"; "Light: Philosophy"; "Flare: Opinions"; "Sparks: Satire and Reviews"; "Writings @ Ankur Mutreja"; and "Nine Poems"; which can be downloaded free from the links on the top menu.

8 Comments on "Baba Ramdev Judgment: Right to Privacy of Sleep against Private Persons (?)"

  1. In Baba Ramdev’s case what was infringed upon is the right of the citizens who were not armed who had been given permission to stay there by the authority concerned viz., the Delhi Police. What the police claims is that the permission was sought for Yoga camp and it was converted for political purpose and therefore they used force on the sleeping citizens. Even assuming that the conditions were violated can the Delhi police use force on sleeping citizens. This has been commented up on by the SC. To bring the case of Ratan Tata is totally out of sync. If the private talks of two individuals relate to violation of a law or something serious concerning public at large, right to privacy cannot be invoked. Hope I am not hurting any one. But definitely every right under Part III of the Constitution is enforceable even against private persons. Otherwise how can we file Habeas Corpus petitions. It is there in the Constitution itself. Coming back to the issue I cannot claim a right of privacy to sleep after illegally tresspassing into somebody else’s property and such a claim would obviously cannot be sustained.

  2. @Mr Ramamoorthi, Thanks for commenting. Please refer below:
    In Re, “In Baba Ramdev’s case what was infringed upon is the right of the citizens who were not armed who had been given permission to stay there by the authority concerned viz., the Delhi Police. What the police claims is that the permission was sought for Yoga camp and it was converted for political purpose and therefore they used force on the sleeping citizens”, I have stated in my post the judgment is about the legality of implementation of order passed u/s 144 CrPC, the illegality lied in not giving appropriate notice of the order to the people concerned and, as per Justice Chauhan’s order, also in waking up the sleeping citizen as it was infringement of their right of privacy of sleep. In the majority judgment no negative opinion has been reached wrt to the whole of the police force, opinion has been reached only with respect to those police officers who used force and appropriate directions have been issued for taking action against them.

    In Re, “Even assuming that the conditions were violated can the Delhi police use force on sleeping citizens. This has been commented upon by the SC. To bring the case of Ratan Tata is totally out of sync. If the private talks of two individuals relate to violation of a law or something serious concerning public at large, right to privacy cannot be invoked”, the case of Ratan Tata has been mentioned by me to highlight the point that right u/a 21 is not enforceable against private persons. As far as privacy of Ratan Tata is concerned, I am of the view that his privacy has been infringed and the reason has been discussed by me in the link mentioned in my post.
    In Re: “Hope I am not hurting any one. But definitely every right under Part III of the Constitution is enforceable even against private persons. Otherwise how can we file Habeas Corpus petitions. It is there in the Constitution itself.”, Habeas Corpus is enforceable against private persons through police/state and not directly i.e. the state will have to be made party and the SC would then issue directions to the state to produce the missing person (pls also check out the Vidya Verma case link in my post). As far as privacy infringement is concerned, since there is no comprehensive law dealing with infringement of privacy in India, in most of the cases, the SC wouldn’t be able to issue directions as the SC has to work in the confines of existing law. Unfortunately, there are no international law or treaties wrt privacy protection which India has signed, so the SC can’t even lay down law on the precedence of Visakha’s Case to fill gap.
    In Re, “Coming back to the issue I cannot claim a right of privacy to sleep after illegally tresspassing into somebody else’s property and such a claim would obviously cannot be sustained”, I have very clearly stated that the judgment has very clearly identified the right of privacy of sleep as a right not to be disturbed while asleep wherever and whenever; however, not meaning the right to fall asleep wherever and whenever. This means one can’t trespass one’s property and claim a right to sleep there, but once fallen asleep on the property trespassed, he can’t be disturbed by the state till he wakes up naturally; that’s the law stated in the judgment.
    I will recommend you to read all the links mentioned in my post.

  3. @Mr Ramamoorthy, in case you are not a law person, I need to inform you that HC can issue Habeas Corpus against private persons u/a 226. In the SC, I think, it can’t be done because Art 32 is available strictly for enforcement of fundamental right, and art 21 is not available against private persons as per the present law. Also, in my above comment when I mentioned Habeas Corpus, I meant mandamus directions and not writ, so please don’t confuse. I used Habeas Corpus lightly over there, what I meant was directions would be issued to the state.

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