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Digital Innovation and Its Impact on Constitutional Rights

Gagan Kataria

10 May 2024

Research Scholar

JJT University

Digital innovation has had a significant impact on Constitutional rights across the globe. While these advancements have opened up new opportunities and possibilities, they have raised concerns about privacy, security, and equality. Digital technology has a profound impact on various Constitutional rights, including the right to privacy, freedom of expression, right to education, right to work, right to health, right to participation, right to culture, right to a fair trial, right to property, and the right to access justice.

Abstract. Digital innovation has had a significant impact on Constitutional rights across the globe. While these advancements have opened up new opportunities and possibilities, they have raised concerns about privacy, security, and equality. Digital technology has a profound impact on various Constitutional rights, including the right to privacy, freedom of expression, right to education, right to work, right to health, right to participation, right to culture, right to a fair trial, right to property, and the right to access justice. The complexities of these impacts have underscored the need for policymakers, lawmakers, and other stakeholders to work together to ensure that digital innovation supports the protection and promotion of Constitutional rights for all. Moreover, as digital technologies continue to advance, new challenges will continue to emerge. The use of Electronic Evidence in legal proceedings is a prime example of this. While Electronic Evidence can provide valuable insights, it can also be easily manipulated or tampered with, raising concerns about authenticity and reliability. Finally, Digital innovation has also impacted the right to freedom of assembly and association. Social media platforms and other digital tools have made organizing and mobilizing people around shared causes and interests easier. Digital innovation has facilitated the growth of online communities, including those that may have been marginalized or excluded from traditional forms of organization. In conclusion, digital innovation has had a profound impact on Constitutional rights, both positively and negatively. While digital technologies have expanded opportunities for people worldwide, they have also raised concerns about privacy, security, and equality. Policymakers, lawmakers, and other stakeholders must continue to work together to ensure that digital innovation protects and promotes Constitutional rights for all.

 

 

Introduction

 

India's Constitution is considered to be one of the most beautiful Constitutions in the world due to its inclusion of Human Rights. The Constitution of India recognizes the inherent dignity and worth of every individual and enshrines a set of fundamental Human Rights that are guaranteed to all citizens of the country. The beauty of the Indian Constitution lies in its recognition of the fundamental rights of all individuals, regardless of their background, religion, or social status. The Constitution's inclusion of Human Rights has helped to create a more just and equitable society in India and serves as a model for other countries around the world. The Indian Constitution guarantees a range of Human Rights, including the Right to equality, the Right to life and liberty, the Right to freedom of speech and expression, the Right to practice one's religion freely, and the Right to a fair trial. These rights are fundamental to the well-being of every individual, and the Indian Constitution recognizes this fact by making them an integral part of the country's legal framework. The beauty of the Indian Constitution lies in its ability to provide a framework for the protection and promotion of Human Rights while also ensuring that the government is accountable to its citizens. The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, which serves as a check on the powers of the executive and ensures that the government acts in accordance with the Constitution and the law. Digital innovation has brought about numerous positive changes for Human Rights in India. It has facilitated greater access to information, enabling citizens to exercise their Right to knowledge and participate in democratic processes. The rise of social media and online platforms has empowered individuals to express their opinions and engage in public discourse, promoting freedom of expression. Digital technologies have also improved access to Education and healthcare, enhancing the Right to Education and the Right to health. E-commerce and digital financial services have advanced economic rights, providing opportunities for entrepreneurship and financial inclusion. However, it is crucial to address challenges such as online harassment, privacy concerns, and the digital divide to ensure that the benefits of digital innovation are accessible to all without compromising Human Rights.

 

 

2. Development of Constitutional Rights in the Digital Era

 

The development of constitutional rights in the digital era is a dynamic process that involves the interpretation and application of existing constitutional principles to address the challenges and opportunities presented by the digital age. As technology continues to advance, courts, lawmakers, and society as a whole must grapple with how constitutional rights apply in the digital realm.

 

2.1 Judicial Interpretation: 

 

Courts play a vital role in interpreting and applying constitutional rights to digital contexts. They often face cases that involve privacy, freedom of expression, surveillance, and other issues arising from the use of digital technologies. Through their decisions, courts establish precedents and provide guidance on how constitutional rights should be understood and protected in the digital era. These interpretations evolve over time as new cases and legal arguments emerge.

 

  1. Right to privacy In September 2017, the Supreme Court of India delivered a landmark judgment confirming the Right to privacy as a fundamental right under the Indian Constitution. This ruling had far-reaching implications for various aspects of life in India, including the regulation of personal data and information technology. Puttaswamy v. Union of India (2017): (AIR 2017 SC 4161), also known as 'Aadhar Judgment' , is the most recent landmark judgment of Article 21. Decided by nine bench judges, they unanimously recognized the Right to privacy as a fundamental of every individual guaranteed by the Constitution, within Article 21. The Supreme Court held that the Right to privacy is a fundamental right. In 2018, the Supreme Court of India upheld the constitutional validity of the Aadhaar scheme. This required Indian citizens to link their biometric data and personal information to a unique identification number. The Court, however, struck down several provisions of the scheme, including mandatory linking of Aadhaar to bank accounts and mobile phone numbers, stating that they violated the Right to privacy under the Indian Constitution.

  2. Right to freedom of speech and expression on the Internet: In March 2019, the Supreme Court issued a judgment that recognized the Right to freedom of speech and expression on the Internet as a fundamental right. This ruling is expected to have a major impact on how online content is regulated in India.

  3. Internet Shutdown Case: In 2020, the Supreme Court of India held that an indefinite internet shutdown in Jammu and Kashmir, imposed after the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, was a violation of the Right to freedom of speech and expression and the Right to carry on any trade or business through the Internet. 

  4. Right To Be Forgotten: The Right to be forgotten means the Right to remove one's information from public view. It has been held to be a very integral part of the Right to privacy. In India, Subhranshu Rout v. State of Odisha (BLAPL No.4592/2020) is a very significant case on the Right to be forgotten. However, this Court is of the view that the Indian Criminal Justice system is more of a sentence oriented system with little emphasis on the disgorgement of victim's loss and suffering, although the impact of crime on the victim may vary significantly for persons and cases for some the effect of crime is short and intense, for others the impact is long-lasting. As in the instant case, the rights of the victim to get those uploaded photos/videos erased from the Facebook server still remain unaddressed for want of appropriate legislation. However, allowing such objectionable photos and videos to remain on a social media platform without the consent of a woman is a direct affront to a woman's modesty and, more importantly, her Right to privacy.

  5. Right to access the Internet: Faheema Shirin RK vs. State of Kerala And Ors. held Right to access the Internet is an integral part of the Right to Education and the Right to Privacy under Article 21A and Article 21 of the Constitution of India, respectively[3]. Internet Access not only enhances the opportunities for students to acquire knowledge but also enhances the quality of Education.

 

 

2.2 Legislative Frameworks

 

 Lawmakers recognize the need to adapt legal frameworks to address the challenges posed by the digital age. Many countries have introduced or updated legislation to specifically address digital rights and related issues. For example, data protection laws, cybercrime legislation, and laws on surveillance have been enacted or revised to protect individuals' rights in the digital realm. These legislative efforts aim to strike a balance between facilitating innovation and safeguarding constitutional rights.

In June 2019, the Indian government released draft rules for regulating social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. These rules would require social media companies to take down unlawful content within 24 hours, among other things. The draft rules are currently.

 

3. Impact of digital innovation on constitutional rights

 

Positive impacts of digital innovation on human rights in India:

 

  1. Right to equality: Digital technologies have enabled greater access to information and opportunities, empowering citizens to exercise their Right to equality regardless of their background.

  2. Right to freedom of speech and expression: Digital platforms have provided a space for citizens to express their opinions and ideas, facilitating the exercise of the Right to freedom of speech and expression.

  3. Right to information: Digital technologies have facilitated access to information, enabling citizens to exercise their Right to information and hold the government accountable.

  4. Right to privacy: Digital technologies have enabled greater protection of personal data and privacy, enhancing the Right to privacy enshrined in the Constitution.

  5. Right to Education: Digital technologies have made Education more accessible and flexible, empowering citizens to exercise their Right to Education.

  6. Right to life: Digital technologies have enabled greater access to healthcare, Education, and job opportunities, enhancing the Right to life enshrined in the Constitution.

  7. Right to a fair and speedy trial: Digital technologies have enabled greater access to legal information and services, facilitating a fair and speedy trial and enhancing the Right to a fair and speedy trial enshrined in the Constitution.

  8. Right to peaceful assembly: Digital platforms have enabled greater organization and coordination for peaceful assemblies and protests, enhancing the Right to peaceful assembly enshrined in the Constitution.

  9. Right to privacy in communication: Digital technologies have enabled greater privacy in communication, particularly through end-to-end encrypted messaging services, enhancing the Right to privacy in communication enshrined in the Constitution.

  10. Right to dignity: Digital technologies have facilitated greater access to services and opportunities, enhancing the Right to dignity enshrined in the Constitution.

 

Negative impacts of digital innovation on human rights in India:

 

  1. Digital divide: Not all individuals have equal access to digital technologies, leading to a digital divide that can exacerbate existing social and economic inequalities.

  2. Privacy violations: Digital technologies have made it easier to collect, store, and analyze personal data, raising concerns about privacy and the protection of personal information. Therefore, Digital technologies can collect, store, and analyze personal data without individuals' consent or knowledge, violating their Right to privacy.

  3. Surveillance and censorship: The Indian government has implemented various surveillance and censorship measures to monitor online activity and restrict access to certain websites and platforms, which can restrict individuals' freedom of expression and access to information.

  4. Cyberbullying and online harassment: Social media and other digital platforms can be used to harass, bully, and intimidate individuals, violating their Right to freedom of expression and creating a hostile online environment, leading to mental health issues and violating individuals' Right to dignity and security.

  5. Intellectual property violations: Digital technologies can make it easier to steal, copy, and distribute copyrighted material, violating the Right to intellectual property and the creative work of others.

  6. Job displacement and precarity: Digital technologies have led to job displacement in certain industries and created new forms of precarious work, leading to economic insecurity and violating individuals' Right to just and favourable conditions of work.

  7. Discrimination and bias: Digital technologies can perpetuate existing discrimination and bias, such as algorithmic bias in hiring practices or discriminatory content moderation on social media platforms.

  8. Disinformation and fake news: Digital technologies and social media can spread disinformation and fake news, undermining individuals' Right to access accurate information and distorting public opinion and decision-making processes. Undermine individuals' Right to freedom of expression.

 

 

 

 

 

4. Conclusion

 

The development of constitutional rights in the digital era is a complex and ongoing process that requires the interpretation and application of existing constitutional principles to address the challenges and opportunities brought about by digital technologies. Judicial interpretation plays a crucial role in shaping the understanding and protection of constitutional rights in the digital context. Landmark judgments by the Supreme Court of India have recognized the Right to privacy as a fundamental right and the Right to freedom of speech and expression on the Internet. These rulings have far-reaching implications for the regulation of personal data, online content, and internet shutdowns.

 

Legislative frameworks also play a significant role in adapting legal systems to the digital age. Lawmakers have introduced or updated legislation to address digital rights, data protection, cybercrime, surveillance, and other related issues. The aim is to strike a balance between promoting innovation and safeguarding constitutional rights. Efforts such as the draft rules for regulating social media platforms demonstrate the government's recognition of the need to adapt laws to address challenges posed by digital platforms.

 

Digital innovation has brought both positive and negative impacts on constitutional rights in India. On the positive side, digital technologies have enhanced access to information, freedom of speech and expression, Education, healthcare, and economic opportunities. They have empowered individuals and facilitated the exercise of various constitutional rights. However, challenges such as the digital divide, privacy violations, surveillance, cyberbullying, and discrimination remain. It is essential to address these challenges to ensure that the benefits of digital innovation are accessible to all while protecting individuals' rights.

 

As technology continues to advance, it is crucial for courts, lawmakers, and society as a whole to stay vigilant and adapt constitutional rights to the evolving digital landscape. The harmonization of constitutional principles with digital technologies will contribute to the creation of a fair, inclusive, and rights-respecting society in the digital era.

 

Reference

1.      Puttaswamy v. Union of India (2017): (AIR 2017 SC 4161)

2.      Anuradha bhasin vs. Union of India 2020 SC

3.      Subhranshu Rout v. State of Odisha (BLAPL No.4592/2020)

4.      Faheema Shirin RK vs. State of Kerala AIR2020Ker35.

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