Mar 2, 2022

What is the Right to be Forgotten?

Roadies and Bigg Boss Winner, Ashutosh Kaushik, has approached the Delhi High Court seeking removal of articles on his past altercations from the internet. Further, very recently even the Madras High Court allowed a person to have his name redacted from orders to protect his right of privacy, thereby recognizing the ‘Right to be Forgotten’. This is the right to have publicly available personal information removed from Internet search, databases, websites or other public platforms once it loses relevance. 


Does Indian law allow the right to be forgotten?


In India, there is no law that specifically provides for the right to be forgotten. However, the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 recognises this right. The European Union data protection law known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) also recognises this right , and it has been upheld by a number of courts in the United Kingdom, and in Europe.


What have Indian Courts said about the right to be forgotten?


  • In April 2021, the Delhi High Court passed an interim/temporary order recognizing the ‘right to be forgotten’ while directing Google and IndianKanoon to remove a judgment pertaining to an American citizen of Indian origin. The case is still ongoing but the Court took note of the right.


  • In August 2017, the concurring opinion in the landmark Supreme Court right to privacy judgment, Justice Sanjay Kishal Kaul recognized the right by stating that ‘the right of an individual to exercise control over their personal data and to be able to control their own life would also encompass their right to control their existence on the Internet’.


  • In 2017, the Karnataka High Court also recognized the  right to be forgotten in sensitive cases involving women in general and highly sensitive cases involving rape or affecting the modesty and reputation of the person concerned.

In November 2020, the Orissa High Court examined the right to be forgotten as a remedy for victims of sexually explicit videos/pictures often posted on social media platforms by spurned lovers to intimidate and harass women. The court had noted that “information in the public domain is like toothpaste, once it is out of the tube one can’t get it back in and once the information is in the public domain it will never go away”.