Right to privacy of Public figures

The Press Council of India formulated guidelines to achieve a balance between the right to

Privacy of the public persons and the right of the press to have access to information of public interest and importance.

International conference of the World Association of Press Councils (WAPC) held in April 1998 in Delhi, stressed that there is a need for reconciliation between three competing constitutional values at play on this count, viz: (a) an individual’s right to privacy, (b) freedom of the press, and (c) the people’s right to know about public figures in public interest.

The Council has prepared a report on the issue and framed the guidelines as follows:-

“Right to privacy is an inviolable human right. However, the degree of privacy differs from person to person and from situation to situation. The public person who functions under public gaze as an emissary/representative of the public cannot expect to be afforded the same degree of privacy as a private person.

His acts and conduct are of public interest even if conducted in private may be brought to public knowledge through the medium of the press.

The press has, however, a corresponding duty to ensure that the information about such acts and conduct of public interest of the public person is obtained through fair means, is properly verified and then reported accurately.

For obtaining the information in respect of acts done or conducted away from public gaze, the press is not expected to use surveill devices. For obtaining information about private talks and discussions, while the press is expected not to badger the public persons, the public persons are also expected to bring more openness in their functioning and co-operate with the press in its duty of informing the public about the acts of their representatives”.

The Atomic Energy Act 1962 prohibits (Section 19) unauthorized entry of any person into any prohibited areas, and make any report, photograph, sketch, etc. Those who violate this shall be punishable (Section 24) with imprisonment up to five years, with or without fine.