The judgment came back in 1994 when right to privacy was not a fundamental right under Article 21.The judgment discusses about freedom of press and its restrictions under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution
The judgment is infamously known as the Auto Shankar case. Auto Shankar @ Gauri Shankar was awarded death sentence by the Chengalpet sessions Court for 6 murders which was confirmed by the Madras HC and the SC. In the instant case the first petitioner is the editor, printer and publisher of a Tamil weekly magazine Nakkheeran, published from Madras. The second petitioner is the associate editor of the magazine. While the accused was in jail, he wrote his autobiography. He handed over thebook to his advocate through his wife with the knowledge of the jail authorities to be published in the petitioner’s magazine named “Nakkeeran”. The petitioner’s who accepted to publish his autobiography advertised in their magazines about the same. However, several Police officials, IAS and IPS officers who were his partners in crime feared if their identity and reputation would be damaged by the publication so they threatened the petitioner’s not to publish the autobiography. Several orders restraining the petitioner’s from publishing the autobiography was also issued. A letter was also addressed to the petitioner telling the autobiography was not an original work of Auto Shankar, it was someone else who forged his identity. It was also alleged that, while in jail Auto Shankar was treated with third degree punishment to write a letter to his advocate telling he never wrote such books. Hence the petitioners have approached the SC under Article 32 of the Constitution to issue appropriate directions to the Police officials not to restrain them from publishing the book.
The Indian Constitution:
(1) The right to move the Supreme Court by appropriate proceedings for the enforcement of the rights conferred by this Part is guaranteed
(2) The Supreme Court shall have power to issue directions or orders or writs, including writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari, whichever may be appropriate, for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by Part III
Article 21: No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.
The petitioners contended that,
The respondents contended that,
Upon hearing the parties, the Court held that, mere fear ofofficials cannot restrict the freedom of press under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. If such false allegations were contained in the book let the book be published and then the officials may prove their innocence in the Court by filling a defamation case. The Court further stated that, since accused has not authorised Police officials to protect his privacy the same may not be bothered upon. Considering that, the petition was initially addressed to the Madras HC the Court converted the petition to a Special leave petition and thereby allowed the petitioners to publish the alleged autobiography. The Court concluded by saying that, publishing the details of a person which is available in public records do not infringe privacy however, publishing the private details of a person without his consent is an infringement of individual privacy and the same is prohibited in law.