The internet never sleeps and the internet never forgets
In light of the realities of our current digital world, it is important to
remember that not everything on the internet is desirable, especially for the
people who are the source of inspiration of that content. Any content can
infiltrate borders and be viewed by an unbelievable wide audience because of the
Internet's far-reaching influence.
This gave birth to a brand-new concept: The
Right to Be Forgotten. This right has far-reaching implications for hotly
disputed and discussed Internet policies including freedom of expression and
online privacy. These concepts of privacy, as well as freedom of speech also
includes the ability to choose and determine the content's existence.
result, if citizens' right to be forgotten is recognized and granted, you can
request the removal of specific web sites from search engine results, as well as
the erasure of personal data that you do not want to appear on search
Purpose of Right to Be Forgotten
Right to be forgotten can have information, videos, or images removed from
specific online records, making it impossible for search engines to identify
them. Thus, granting people such rights would enable them to easily get
offensive content regarding them removed from the public domain which is a
constant source of embarrassment for them.
The origins of this right can be
traced back to French law on the Droit a L'oubli, or "right to oblivion
right was created by French Jurists with the same purpose and intention. By
exercising this right criminal were allowed to object to the publishing of
information about their case after they had completed their sentence.
purpose and application of the right seems obvious and necessary, especially
when seeing it in consonance with right to life, the global application and
adaptation of such a right is not only contentious, but also dubious,
particularly given the ambiguity of current Court decisions and statutes. In
India, we are currently in the same scenario. Despite the fact that courts are
progressively recognizing the right, it remains un-enshrined in all relevant
Additionally, there appears to be a clash with the long-cherished right to
freedom of expression, which some have labelled a new form of Internet
censorship. But in the recent times in the landmark Google Spain case, the Court
of Justice of the European Union established that personal privacy outweighed
the interest in free data flow.
Nonetheless, the Right to Forget will provide significant benefits to those who
are affected by the Internet's unforgiving memory, in the sense that it will
remove content about their past mistakes and other offensive content that was
posted as a medium of revenge and still continues to affect their present and
future. Their future prospects may ultimately improve if this right is
exercised, particularly in areas like job stability, social respect, and mental
and emotional rehabilitation, which the existing impugned presence does not
Judicial View of Right to be Forgotten
Based on a recent flurry of writs and orders in Indian courts, the right to be
forgotten looks to be gaining popularity in India. Because this right concerns
the right to privacy, a person exercising this right can knock on legal doors to
request that their personal data or information be removed from online
resources. According to the initial proponents of the right to privacy in the
United States, it is a right that essentially implies "right to be left alone.
Taking this a step further, the right to be forgotten is about recovering
control over one's online personal information – the freedom to remove
irrelevant content after a predetermined amount of time and start over. The
importance of retaining data for a specific time period can be well understood
from the recent uproar caused by the new WhatsApp User Policy 2021.
There have been various cases filed in Indian Courts where a person finds
himself in a situation where he no longer wants his personal information to be
accessible to others online and has therefore approached the Honorable Courts to
allow the person to approach a social media platform and request that particular
information be removed.
Supreme Court’s landmark judgment, Justice K.S. Puttuswamy and Anr. v. Union of
India existing as a binding precedent on the matter of privacy and any
related matters, but the Bench constrained itself to just acknowledging the
existence of the 'Right to be Forgotten' within the umbrella of the right to
privacy, but chose not to enforce it as a separate Fundamental Right.
Indian High Courts have as a result differently interpreted it, with High Courts
of Karnataka, Kerala, Orissa and Delhi ruling in favor whereas the Gujarat High
Court has decided against it.
Gujarat HC observed that because the petitioner did not specify which
sections were violated by the publishing of the impugned judgement, it would not
fall within the ambit of Article 21. Despite the fact that the petitioner's
legal representatives claimed that the behavior in question was unregulated and
thus created privacy concerns. It was evident that the harmful consequences on
the petitioner's personal and professional life were clearly caused by a lack of
or rather a breach of his privacy and demanded the implementation of 'Right to
In a similar case before Karnataka HC , filed under Articles 226 and 227, the
petitioner's father sought that the verdict be removed from all digital
recordings. According to his argument, the decisions reached should not be
accessible to the public via search engines such as Yahoo and Google. The case
was about a family matter, and was later resolved by the spouses themselves and
Therefore, to safeguard the woman's reputation, it was demanded
that all digital information be erased or made inaccessible to the general
public. The Court struck an interesting balance when it decided not to make any
changes to the High Court website or a certified copy of the ruling which is an
acceptable law since public domain means common spaces that are widely used
whereas court websites are mostly accessed by people from legal fraternity for
purpose of learning nuances of law.
Similarly, in Zulfiqar Ahman Khan v. Quintillion Business Media Pvt. Ltd. &
Ors. Delhi High Court recognized the Plaintiff's right to privacy, of which
the 'Right to be Forgotten' and 'Right to be Left Alone' were fundamental parts,
was recognized by the Delhi High Court, which granted him remedy in the form of
a restraining order against the disputed content's publication. However, the
Court's granted relief in a restricted manner, and it only did so while the case
The Odisha High Court, presided over by Justice SK Panigrahi, concluded that,
‘the 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’ confirming the decisions of numerous other High Courts,
that an individual has the right to expect intermediaries to delete sensitive
information about them from the internet.
The current case involved the
publication of intimate photographs of a woman on the internet. While such
horrible acts carry severe penalties, there are no systems in place to ensure
that the victim's right to be forgotten is respected. Only after the police had
visited the accused did he take down the content in this case. There was no way
for the victim to directly contact the intermediary (Facebook) and request that
it be taken down.
Recent Delhi HC interim decision issued by the Delhi High Court has the
potential to provide some temporary relief until concrete legislation on the
matter is enacted.
Immediate Need for Legislative Recognition
Several parts of privacy remain unclear in terms of how they will be enforced
under the banner of privacy breaking. Given the tremendous quantity of
information available on the internet, anyone may find out personal information
about a specific person simply typing their name into any search engine and this
can have major consequences for the person's reputation.
With the Personal Data
Protection Bill still pending, the state of 'Right to be Forgotten
’ in India is
plainly in flux, also with the Court issuing contradictory statements.
The scope and extent of this right has to be critically recognized by the
legislature before drafting relevant provisions granting the same since the need
for such a right concerning privacy on the internet, is well recognized however
excessive use of such right will inevitably reach broad areas of privacy where
individuals interpret certain personal data as unnecessary, irrelevant, or
inaccurate but the public may be put off which would eventually create a
chilling effect on Freedom of Speech and Expression. Therefore, it is essential
that the legislation is created in a way that it caters to a context-specific
approach rather than lays down generic rules.
The most popular criticism for "The Right to Be Forgotten" is that it will
encourage people to make repeat requests for no apparent reason, and that the
law will be difficult to enforce. However, it is clear that this right
encourages those who believe there is no way to leave the past alone on the
Internet, and it is a strong example of how power can be withdrawn from the Web
and returned to its users, which is crucial in light of debates surrounding the
current day intermediaries and privacy concerns such as data privacy. The recent
uproar caused by WhatsApp User Policy is a testimony to the importance of such
- Tejashree J, The Need for the Right to be Forgotten in India, RGNUL
Financial and Mercantile Law Review, Vol. 5, p. 106 - 112 (2018)
- Google Spain SL v. Agencia Espafiola de Proteccion de Datos (AEPD) 2014
- Samuel Warren and Louis Brandeis , The Right to Privacy" 4 Harvard L.R.
193 Dec. 15, 1890
- Justice K.S. Puttuswamy (Retd.) and Anr. v. Union of India, (2017) 10
- Dharamraj Bhanushankar Dave v. State of Gujarat & Ors, 2015 SCC Online
- Vasunathan v. Registrar General, (2017) SCC Online Kar 424
- Zulfiqar Ahman Khan v. Quintillion Business Media Pvt. Ltd. & Ors. AIR
2019 Del. 132
- Subhranshu Rout @ Gugul vs State of Odisha,BLAPL No.4592 OF 2020
- Jorawer Singh Mundy @ Jorawar Singh Mundy vs Union of India, W.P. (C)
3918/ 2020 & CM APPL. 11767/ 2021
- Hillary C. Webb, People Don’t Forget: The Necessity of Legislative
Guidance in Implementing a U.S. Right to be Forgotten, 85 GEO. WASH. L. REV.