Right to be forgotten
● A reality show contestant has approached the Delhi High Court with a plea saying that his videos, photographs and articles etc. be removed from the internet citing his “Right to be Forgotten”.
● In the plea, the applicant also maintains that the “Right to be Forgotten” goes in sync with the “Right to Privacy”, which is an integral part of Article 21 of the Constitution, which concerns the right to life.
“The right to be forgotten is one of the important human rights to protect individuals’ privacy. It has been assumed that the right to be forgotten (RTBF) breaches the freedom of expression and that it justifies censorship.” Examine.
About the right to be forgotten:
● The right to be forgotten is the right to have publicly available personal information removed from the internet, search,, websites or any other public platforms, once the personal information in question is no longer necessary, or relevant.
● In 2017, the Right to Privacy was declared a fundamental right by the Supreme Court in its landmark verdict of the Puttaswamy case.
● The right to be forgotten has been recognised as a statutory right in the European Unionunder the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
● .In India, there is no law that specifically provides for the right to be forgotten. It falls under the purview of an individual’s right to privacy, which is governed by the Personal Data Protection Bill that is yet to be passed by Parliament.
● The Personal Data Protection Bill aims to set out provisions meant for the protection of the personal data of individuals.
Arguments in favour of the right to be forgotten:
● Recognised by Supreme Court: In the landmark right to privacy judgment(2017), the Supreme Court recognised the right to be forgotten as being under the ambit of the right to privacy (specifically, informational privacy) under the Constitution.
● 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 proponents argue that individuals should be able to determine the development of their life in an autonomous way. Persons cannot be perpetually stigmatised for past conduct.
● Trials held under public scrutiny act as a check against judge erratic logic or judgment and help in enhancing the confidence of the public in the fairness and objectivity of the administration of justice.
Arguments against the right to be forgotten:
● Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution did not provide “privacy” as a ground for imposing restrictions on right to information.
● There is a difficulty in the removal of information in the public domain which creates enforcement problems.
● The removal sometimes creates a Streisand effect. It is a social phenomenon that occurs when an attempt to hide, remove or censor information has the unintended consequence of further publicizing that information.
● To block or erase past records from public access and deleting search links may infringe upon the freedom of expression and the freedom of the press especially while they will criticise public personalities.
● Conflict with Right to information: In its order in the Jorawer Singh Mundy case, the Delhi HC also noted that where a court order is demanded to be taken down, the court will be required to examine the right to privacy of the petitioner on one hand, and the right to information of the public and maintenance of transparency in judicial records on the other hand.
● Public personalities often employ reputation management firms to manage their public profile. This way any unfavourable elements to their profile can be removed. However, this creates an issue of inequity of access for the right to be forgotten.
● Right to be forgotten may get into conflict with matters involving public records. Judgments have always been treated as public records and fall within the definition of a public document according to Section 74 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
● Section 27(2) of the Personal Data Protection bill says the adjudicating officer can decide on the question of disclosure, and the circumstances in which he thinks such disclosure can override the freedom of speech and the citizen’s right to information.
➢ Officers may give the decision in favour of the government.
The right to be forgotten is inherent in the Right to privacy. A legal framework that respects individual right to be forgotten, at the same time balances the right to expression should be framed.