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Delhi High Court Justice A.P. ShahFormer Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Justice A.P. Shah Wednesday called for balance between privacy and surveillance, as the government cannot be expected to end surveillance, some of it being rooted in security requirements.

A “just, fair and reasonable” balance is needed, so surveillance does not breach the privacy of citizens, the former chief justice of the Delhi High Court said.

Justice Shah was delivering the keynote address at the fifth Annual Legal Service Conference of the Indo-US Business Council, when he said that drawing the line between privacy and the need for surveillance was possible if one would examine the the reason and motive behind the infringement of privacy.

Justice Shah said the earlier idea, when privacy meant the “right to be left alone”, had transformed. He advocated a “fair regulation to balance the requirements of security and an individual’s privacy”.

“Now the question is what aspect of personal life can be left alone,” he said.

“Government cannot be asked not to undertake surveillance,” Justice Shah said, adding that the “executive, parliament and judiciary will protect privacy”.

He said India has a very peculiar regime of surveillance, which cannot be monitored by the judiciary.

Having said this, Justice Shah said that the interception of former corporate lobbyist Niira Radia’s telephones was completely illegal; the intercepts were leaked to media, and industrialist Tata’s counsel says it was an outcome of corporate rivalry.

Shardul Shroff, managing partner of Amarchand and Mangaldas, referring to the recent economic reforms including Foreign Direct Investment in multi-brand retail, the proposed reforms in the insurance sector, major changes in land acquisition law and relief and rehabilitation of those displaced, said: “Very major relook and recast” of the 60-year-old Companies Act policy was needed, and the whole debate on privacy and transparency was of great significance.

One of the speakers, referring to vast range of issues of co-operation between India and US, pointed out that in the last one decade, bilateral trade between India and the US had increased five-fold.

Lalit Bhasin, president of the Society for Indian Law Firms, underlined the need for a proper legal framework to support huge investments by American companies in India.

Michael P. Pelletier, deputy chief of mission of the US Embassy in New Delhi said a “predictable legal environment” was necessary for doing business in India.

The conference had two sessions devoted to “Transparency versus Privacy: The Evolving Landscape and the Protection of Your Information” and “Cross Border Business: Major Issues Impacting Investment and Business Today”.


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