The High Court of Karnataka has quashed a Family Court's order to a mobile service provider to submit the call details and mobile tower details of a third party in a matrimonial case between a couple.

The High Court said that it violates the fundamental right to privacy of the third party who is allegedly the paramour of the wife in the matrimonial dispute.

Allowing the petition field by the 'third party', the Court said, "In the case at hand, tower details of the petitioner is permitted to be taken and produced. It is for the first time, the petitioner comes into the picture merely on an allegation of illicit relationship. He is a third party to these proceedings. Third party's privacy cannot be permitted to be violated on the specious plea of the husband that he wants to prove illicit relationship between the petitioner and the wife."

Elaborating on the rights of the private individual, Justice M Nagaprasanna in his recent judgement said, "It is trite that right to privacy is implicit in the right to life and liberty guaranteed to the citizens of the country under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. It is a right to be 'let alone."

The couple aged 39 and 37 are fighting a matrimonial case in a Family Court in Bengaluru since 2018. On February 28, 2019, the Family Court allowed the summoning of the mobile tower record details of another man who was not part of the family case. The husband alleged that this third party was his wife's paramour and he wanted to prove it through the mobile tower details of the third party's mobile number.

The third party challenged this in the High Court. The High Court had given an interim stay in 2019 and the petition was disposed on November 30, 2022.

Advocate P. N. Manmohan appeared for the Petitioner while Advocates N. Gowtham Raghunath and Arun Govindraj appeared for the Respondents.

Allowing the petition, the High Court held, "A citizen has a right to safeguard the privacy of his own, his family, marriage and other incidental relationships. Informational privacy also forms an integral part of right to privacy. Therefore, the order which directs tower details of the petitioner to be placed before the court in a proceeding, which he is not even a party, undoubtedly violates informational privacy."

The High Court also noted that it was the wife who had filed the divorce proceedings and not the husband. It also held that even if the wife has not objected to the summoning of the tower details of the third party, he cannot be bound by her decisions.

The High Court held, "The acceptance of the order by the wife, by not challenging it as of now, would have no bearing on the right of the petitioner to seek quashing of the said order insofar as, it concerns him, as he is a third party."

"Wife, who is anyway party to the proceedings, has instituted divorce case, her acceptance or otherwise, cannot bind the petitioner. There is no warrant to permit tower details of the petitioner to be summoned or brought before the concerned court to aid the plea of the husband who has not even filed any case", the Court held.

Cause Title: Vishwas Shetty v. Preethi K. Rao & Ors.

Click here to read/download Judgment

With PTI inputs