Supreme Court expands Article 19 ambit: Not just state, even pvt citizens can face challenge

Source: The post is based on the article “Supreme Court expands Article 19 ambit: Not just state, even pvt citizens can face challenge” published in Indian Express on 4th January 2023

What is the News?

A constitution bench of the Supreme Court has said that the fundamental rights in Articles 19 and 21 of the constitution are enforceable even against other persons, and not just the state and its instruments.

About the Supreme Court judgment

The Supreme Court has ruled that the fundamental rights in Articles 19 and 21 of the constitution are enforceable even against other persons and not just the state and its instruments.

This interpretation could bring an obligation on the state to ensure private entities also abide by Constitutional norms. These questions could hypothetically range from seeking enforcement of privacy rights against a private doctor to seeking the right to free speech against a private social media entity.

While delivering this judgment, the Court relied on the 2017 verdict in Puttaswamy where an SC unanimously upheld privacy as a fundamental right. One of the key arguments by the government was that privacy is right enforceable against other citizens and therefore, cannot be elevated to the status of a fundamental right against the state.

The court also referred to several foreign jurisdictions such as the US where there is a shift from a purely vertical approach to a horizontal approach.

What is the vertical and horizontal application of rights?

A vertical application of rights would mean it can be enforced only against the state while a horizontal approach would mean it is enforceable against other citizens.

For example, a horizontal application of the right to life would enable a citizen to bring a case against a private entity for causing pollution which would be a violation of the right to a clean environment.

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