This article on ‘Right to be forgotten in India: All you need to know‘ was written by Ankita Kumari, an intern at Legal Upanishad.
The legal right to request that personal details or information about an individual be withdrawn from Search queries and other databases is recognized as the Right to be forgotten. As it sounds, this concept of unique law has been found in many legal spaces around the world, like the European Union, the Philippines, and many more.
Therefore, the right to be forgotten allows a person to remove their data from Google searches so that their past transgressions or bad records do not affect their current and future life. The Indian Supreme Court has established some significant legal precedents about the country’s right to be forgotten. This article will assist you in gaining knowledge regarding the Right to be forgotten, along with how it relates to the Right to privacy and the current scenario in India.
What is right to be forgotten?
The right to be forgotten enables an individual to request the removal of their data of any kind, like films, photos, etc., from specific Internet records so that search engines cannot access them. The notion behind “the Right to be Forgotten” is that people should be able to delete unfavorable references from searches on Google and other search engines so that their past transgressions or poor decisions do not appear eternally.
The individual’s Right to privacy, which is a fundamental right covers the legality of the Right to be forgotten.
Is the Right to be forgotten related to the Right to Privacy?
According to the judgment of, K S Puttaswamy v Union of India, 2017, the Right to be forgotten is an integral part of the Right to Privacy.
In the milestone case featuring Justice K S Puttaswamy (Retd) v Union of India, in which the Supreme Court officially recognized the right to be forgotten as an integral component of the Right to privacy (which is part of the right to protection of life and personal liberty, under Article 21 of Indian constitution).
In this case, Justice K S Puttaswamy, the retired judge of Madras High Court, questioned the validity and reliability of the scheme of the Aadhar card. In this regard, the Supreme Court upheld the creditability of the Aadhar scheme. Supreme Court stated that suitable precautions should be taken to preserve the data along with annulling several provisions of the Aadhar Act. The Supreme Court also ruled that the Aadhar program and another sort of identification evidence differed fundamentally from one another. Because the Aadhar Card cannot be reproduced in any way, the Unique Identification System was created to empower the disadvantaged groups in society by providing them with a unique identity.
In the whole judgment, it was concluded that the Right to be forgotten is derived, from the right to privacy provided by Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
Global Scenario of the Regulation:
The right to be forgotten received a lot of attention when in 2016, the European Union has legally adopted the General Data Protection Regulation. On May 25, 2018, the European Union started implementing the General Data Protection Regulation. According to the General Data Protection Regulation, individuals have the right to request that the organizers delete or otherwise eliminate their data.
Other legal precedents involving the right to be forgotten in India:
In a case, Jorawar Singh Mundy v Union of India (2021), the petitioner, who was an American citizen knocked on the door of the Delhi High Court with a writ petition, requesting to delete the man’s judgment in the narcotics case from all the respondent sites because it harmed his employment opportunities. The Delhi High Court directed Google and Indian Kanoon to remove the verdicts from their portals as the right to be forgotten falls under the ambit of the right to privacy.
In Subranshu Raot v. the State of Odisha, the High Court explored the Right to be forgotten as a remedial factor for the victims of sexually explicit recordings or images frequently broadcast on social media for intimidating victims.
In X v. YouTube, the High Court of Delhi supported an actor’s right to privacy under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution and ordered websites and online service providers to remove the actor’s explicit recordings that had been uploaded without her permission to many video-sharing services.
Status of Right to be forgotten in India:
Currently, India does not have any specified law in its legal book that provides any particular rules and regulations for the right to be forgotten. The Personal Data Protection Bill was however introduced to the Lok Sabha by Ravi Shankar Prasad, the Minister of Electronics and Information Technology, on 2019. The Bill aims to architect a Data Protection Authority to ensure the protection of individuals’ data of any kind.
But recently, on August 3, 2022, the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, was withdrawn by the Ministry of Electronics and IT (MEITY). Following that, MPs were handed over the notes, explaining the grounds for the withdrawal of the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 “Considering the report of the JPC (Joint Parliamentary Committee), a comprehensive legislative framework is being worked upon.” Therefore, it is suggested that The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, be withdrawn and replaced with a new Bill that adheres to the comprehensive legal framework.
Complications with the right to be forgotten:
- The press and media will suffer trouble imparting information and ideas to the public. The press and media sector would be in turmoil since they would have to wait for the adjudicating officer’s decisions.
- It might result in the widespread deletion of online content, which would be detrimental to the right to free speech and other human rights.
- Individuals might abuse this right by manipulating the internet content in a way that removes relevant links or otherwise artificially alters it.
Currently, no law in India supports the legality of the right to be forgotten. As public domains provide easy access to read or observe an individual’s records and will evaluate that person based on his past actions if such actions are posted online. This might negatively impact the person’s current life and create trouble and emotional anguish. But also, enforcement of the right to be forgotten would bring a lot of complications, as internet content might get manipulated by individuals.
Hence, a comprehensive legal framework is required for the enforcement of this right. The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019, was withdrawn by the government for the claimed reason that it will replace it with a “complete legal framework” for data privacy and Internet governance.
-  LawBhoomi. (2020, May 8). Case Brief: Justice K. S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) and others. vs Union of India and Ors. Retrieved: https://lawbhoomi.com/case-brief-justice-k-s-puttaswamy-retd-and-anothers-vs-union-of-india-and-ors/
-  Barmak Nassirian. (2017, Aug 28). The General Data Protection Regulation Explained. Retrieved: https://er.educause.edu/articles/2017/8/the-general-data-protection-regulation-explained
-  Mr. Kartikay Sharma. The Right to be forgotten. Retrieved: https://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-5935-the-right-to-be-forgotten.html#:~:text=The%20Delhi%20High%20Court%EF%BF%BD,while%20visiting%20India%20but%20was
-  Rajat Chawda. (2020, November 24). Subhranshu Rout @Gugul vs. the State of Odisha. Retrieved: https://www.mylawrd.com/subhranshu-rout-gugul-vs-the-state-of-odisha-2/
-  S Jyotiranjan. 2022, Aug 8, CONTEMPORARIES It’s prudent to withdraw Personal Data Protection Bill. Retrieved: https://www.dailypioneer.com/2022/state-editions/contemporaries—-it—s-prudent-to-withdraw-personal-data-protection-bill.html