The Pune rural police have suggested a few guidelines on organizing parties by the hospitality industry or any other private persons. Among these guidelines, the mandatory videotaping of parties is significant. These guidelines portray the dark aspects of the police administration that function in our city. The Pune police have been hazy with the enforcement issues; also the extent of their scrutiny has not been laid down in these guidelines.
Issuing guidelines which contravene the private affairs of citizens is beyond the jurisdiction of the police because it does not fall under the ambit of law that regulates the police force in India. The objective of the police in doing so might not be malignant, but this clearly crosses the threshold of their intended manner of working. Videotaping of a private event falls under the domain of privacy rights being abused and privacy rights are assured to the citizens under the fundamental freedoms guaranteed under the constitution.
If the guidelines have to be criticized constructively, there are no benefits to be gained out of these archaic principles. The only potential advantage to allowing such violation of our right to privacy is that it would be easier and more convenient for the police to bust a drug scandal and indict the likely culprits.
There is yet another guideline which talks about entrusting of information which includes addresses and all the necessary details of the persons who participate in a private soiree. The police with the help of this information aspire to track down a mobster who normally attends a social event which involves alcohol and drugs. But in order to chase a small bunch of outlaws the police cannot come up with a solution which so blatantly invades privacy.
The evident disadvantages of these measures is the degree of awkwardness experienced by the people invited to a ‘private’ event which does not remain ‘private’ anymore, the reason being, the proceedings of the event are going to be on record.
Also the confidential information i.e. addresses and contact details of the individuals when divulged to the police might be used for all the wrong reasons. The guidelines don’t clearly describe the level of scrutiny to be enforced by the police. This could turn into leverage for them to take advantage of their authority.
The privacy rights of a citizen are explicitly stated in Article 21 of the Constitution, which provides a citizen the right to safeguard the privacy of his own, his family, marriage, procreation, motherhood, child-bearing and education, but they have not been codified in a specific act. So a party which would mean engaging in private affairs would absolutely fall under the scope of this provision.
Nevertheless, the parliament has incorporated the privacy rights of a citizen in a separate enactment called the Privacy Law bill, 2011 which is yet to be passed (due in the monsoon session of the parliament). This bill defines privacy in a more comprehensive manner. It states that “Every individual shall have a right to his privacy — confidentiality of communication made to, or, by him — including his personal correspondence, telephone conversations, telegraph messages, postal, electronic mail and other modes of communication; confidentiality of his private or his family life; protection of his honor and good name; protection from search, detention or exposure of lawful communication between and among individuals; privacy from surveillance; confidentiality of his banking and financial transactions, medical and legal information and protection of data relating to individual”.
In case an individual is being photographed or videotaped without his consent, this attracts the provisions of the privacy rights under the civil law as a tort (which means a wrongful act) and also the upcoming privacy law because this amounts to intentional intrusion into the private life or affairs of another person. If you violate someone's right to privacy and cause injury, that person is entitled to sue you to recover damages.
But on the contrary these guidelines do not have any legal effect on the general public. The fact is that guidelines are unenforceable in the court of law. This can be illustrated by the Directive Principles of the state policy which are guidelines under Article 37 of the Constitution. They are indicators to the public to fulfill their general duties which the country demands. These guidelines are not justiciable and have no legal effect in the eyes of law.
Guidelines are generally coupled with the law of land as a support to the theoretical principles. But in isolation the guidelines have no legal standing. Guidelines differ from regulations which mean a legal order by an authority of law. Therefore if the police were to issue a summons or warrant to the hospitality industry under these new videotaping guidelines, they would not be liable to the same because of the lack of legality.
The police force is a law enforcement department of the government. But their devious activities like implementing the aforementioned guidelines mark the ebb of the democratic principles which were steadfastly constructed by those who framed our Constitution. The police cannot misuse their authority to meet the ends of justice. It is their inherent duty to analyze the implications of their actions and speak for the best interests of the people.
-- Priyanka Nadgir is a student at Symbiosis Law School. She blogs for Open Space on issues pertaining to law.