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Right to Privacy under UDHR and ICCPR

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1948. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights entered into force on 23 March 1976. Both of these documents recognize human rights that are applicable across the world.

Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states:

  1. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation.
  2. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

The implementation of ICCPR is dealt by The Human Rights committee and they also give General Comments on particular issues concerning the Covenant.

The United Nations General Assembly Resolution on the right of privacy in the digital age, passed on December 18, 2013 and the General Comment of the United Nations Human Rights Committee on the right of privacy, family, home, correspondence, and protection of honour and reputation, under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), expressed in 1988, demands that working of State Surveillance be subject to legality through clear and precise law, which law itself must look to safeguard the right to privacy.

In the context of privacy, particularly General comment no. 16 on the right to privacy, family, home and correspondence, and protection of honour and reputation (Art. 17) of 1988 and General comment no. 19 on the insurance of the family, the right to marriage and equality of spouses (Art. 23) of 1990 are of immense importance.

General Comment No. 16 to Article 17 Right to Privacy in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which India is a signatory State Party emphasized that:

The gathering and holding of personal information on computers, data banks and other devices, whether by public authorities or private individuals or bodies, must be regulated by law. Effective measures have to be taken by States to ensure that information concerning a person's private life does not reach the hands of persons who are not authorized by law to receive, process and use it, and is never used for purposes incompatible with the Covenant. In order to have the most effective protection of his private life, every individual should have the right to ascertain in an intelligible form, Whether, and if so, What personal data is stored in automatic data files, and for What purposes. Every individual should also be able to, ascertain which public authorizes or private individuals or bodies control or may control their files. If such files contain incorrect personal data or have been collected or processed contrary to the provisions of the law, every individual should have the right to request rectification or elimination.