2021 in Review: COVID, Equality and Privacy

DESK BRIEF: The SC delivered key decisions on equality and privacy, further stepping in to provide relief during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2021, the Supreme Court regularly exercised its suo moto powers to provide relief from the calamitous impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in India. The Court stepped in during the Second Wave, supervising the Union Government’s efforts to distribute oxygen and medical supplies and facilitating the creation of a National Pandemic Policy. It further addressed differential pricing for vaccine procurement at the State and Central levels.

The Court in its key judgments in the areas of discrimination and substantive equality grappled with a range of diverse questions. The Court addressed issues such as reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities, the disparate impact of army promotion policies on women, and the role of intersectionality in criminal sentencing.

The Court addressed surveillance, privacy, and freedom of the press in 2021. In July, Several petitions were filed before the Court seeking a judicial probe into the Union Government’s alleged use of the Pegasus spyware. The Court set up a technical committee to investigate the Government’s use of Pegasus and drew links between privacy, freedom from surveillance, and the freedom of the press. While quashing an FIR filed against the late journalist Vinod Dua that alleged sedition, the Court re-emphasised the importance of the freedom of the press.

This week we review the Court’s key decisions in 2021. You can find more here.