The Chief Justice Of the Allahabad High Court, Justice Govind Mathur, took suo motu cognizance of the hoardings. The bench comprising Chief Justice and Justice Ramesh Sinha, while holding that it violates fundamental right of privacy under article 21 of the constitution and a slightest injury to it is impermissible as that may be fatal for our values designed and depicted in the preamble of the constitution.
On 5th March 9, 2020, government in Uttar Pradesh had put up hoardings with the photos and home addresses of those who are for the violence during the anti-CAA protests at strategic traffic points in the capital city, with an intention to issue notices worth thousands of crores on those it blames for the violence.
The Chief Justice of The Allahabad High Court, Justice Govind Mathur, took suo motu cognizance of the hoardings and directed the Lucknow police commissioner Sujit Pandey and district magistrate Abhishek Prakash to appear in the court and explain the law under which the hoardings of 53 anti-CAA protesters were erected at the major intersections in the state capital. Allahabad High Court on 8th March 2020 observed that putting up hoardings by the Uttar Pradesh government featuring names with photographs of those accused of violence during protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is a violation of the privacy of a person. Lawyer KK Rai said, “Chief Justice observes that photographs placed on hoardings are a violation of privacy and honour of a person.” The matter was the adjourned till 3pm to enable appearance of Advocate General and thereafter
the bench decided to deliver the order at 2 pm on 9th March 2020.
The question before the court is the legitimacy of the display of photographs, name and address of certain persons by the district administration and police administration of the city of Lucknow through banners. The banners came up at a major road side with personal details of more than 50 persons of those accused of vandalism during protest in the month of December, 2019. The poster is seeking compensation from the accused persons and further to confiscate their property, if they failed to pay compensation.
Arguments on behalf of respondent:
The Advocate General of the state while accepting the absence of any statute permitting administrative authority to put banner, opposed the petition while making following submissions:
- The Court erred in invoking public interest jurisdiction, which is available to under-privileged section of the society only. The persons whose personal details are given in the banners are capable enough to agitate their grievance.
- The cause in the instant matter arose at Lucknow, therefore, the petition at Allahabad lacks territorial jurisdiction.
- The cognizance of any issue to be adjudicated in public interest litigation could have been taken by a Division Bench and not by a single Bench as taken in the instant matter.
- The object of displaying personal details of the individuals is to deter the mischief mongers from causing damage to public and private property. Such bonafide action taken by the State must not be interfered by the Court in its public interest litigation jurisdiction.
Learned Advocate General heavily relied upon the judgment of Hon’ble Supreme Court in State of Uttaranchal Vs. Balwant Singh Chaufal and others, laying down guidelines for Courts to streamline PIL jurisdiction. While referring paragraph no. 32, 34, 35 and 36 of the judgment aforesaid, the respondent emphasized that the public interest litigation is evolved by the Courts to get access to justice to a large section of society that is otherwise not getting any benefit from judicial system.
Decision of the court:
On 9th march 2020, the In-Re Banners Placed On Road Side In The City Of Lucknow v. State of U.P, the bench opined that
“ Privacy is a fundamental human right recognized in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights…In our country, where privacy is not explicitly recognized as fundamental right in the constitution, the Courts have found such right protected as an intrinsic part of life and personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. This fundamental right provides lungs to the edifice of our entire constitutional system. A slightest injury to it is impermissible as that may be fatal for our values designed and depicted in the preamble of the constitution.”
The court held that the most of the directions issued under para 181 of the judgment aforesaid would have no application in the instant matter being arising out of a suo motu action taken by the Court. The bench further held that,
“ Where there is gross negligence on part of public authorities and government, where the law is disobeyed and the public is put to suffering and where the precious values of the constitution are subjected to injuries, a constitutional court can very well take notice of that at its own. The Court in such matters is not required to wait necessarily for a person to come before it to ring the bell of justice.”
The court held that in the instant matter the act of the district and police administration of Lucknow is alleged to be in conflict with the right of life and liberty. Hence, the suo motu action by the Court is justified.
In regard with cause of action, the court held that the cause of action consists of a bundle of facts that gives cause to enforce the legal injury for redress in a Court of law. In present case, the cause is not about personal injury caused to the persons whose personal details are given in the banner but the injury caused to the precious constitutional value and its shameless depiction by the administration. The court further made reference to the United Nations also under its Resolution No.58/4 dated 31st October, 2003 desired such conduct from public officials. Since the state of UP proposed to install the banner in other cities also where the protest took place and compensation is claimed against alleged damage to public property, it cannot be said that this Court at Allahabad is not having territorial jurisdiction to adjudicate the cause involved.
While rejecting submission, no useful purpose shall be served by this public interest litigation, which essentially pertains to recovery of compensation from such persons, the court held that the issue is not the compensation that is to be recovered from anybody but depiction of personal data of persons on a road side, which may amount unwarranted interference in privacy of a person. The court further opined that the state can always take necessary steps to ensure maintenance of law and order but that cannot be by violating fundamental rights of people. The State has initiated the proceedings to charge compensation from the accused of vandalism during protest in the month of December, 2019, on the basis of a government order that is said to be in tune of the directions given by Supreme Court in “Re:-Destruction of Public and Private Properties,” which does not permit the State to encroach privacy of a person.
The Allahabad high court referred to Supreme Court decision in Malak Singh and others Vs. State of Punjab and Haryana and others  held that
“even for history sheeters who have the necessary criminal history the information about the history sheet and the surveillance has to be kept discreet and confidential that cannot be shared with public and there is no question of posting the photographs of history sheeters even at police stations.”
The Supreme Court in People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Vs. Union of India and another examined the issue with regard to availability of a fundamental right of privacy. The Supreme Court in its historical judgment in Justice K.P. Puttaswamy and others Vs. Union of India affirmed the constitutional right to privacy. The nine Judges Bench noticed certain tests and bench marks, which are liability, legitimate goal, proportionately and procedural guarantees. The legitimate goal as held by the Supreme Court in above case is that the proposed action must be necessary for a democratic society for a legitimate aim. The court held that the act of state instant matter is not in conformity with above legitimate goal. The third test is that there should be rational nexus between the object and means adopted to achieve them and further that how the extent of interference is proportionate to its need. The object as disclosed to the court was only to deter the people from participating in illegal activities. Thus, High court opined it is infringement of privacy and violation of article 21 of the constitution of India. Accordingly, the District Magistrate, Lucknow and the Commissioner of Police, Lucknow Commissioner at, Lucknow were directed to remove the banners from the road side and State of Uttar Pradesh is directed not to place such banners on road side containing personal data of individuals without having authority of law.
Edited by Pragash Boopal
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje
 2010 (3) SCC 402
 2009 (5) SCC 212,
 AIR 1981 SC 760
 1997 (1) SCC 301
 AIR 2017 SC 4161