Considering all Fundamental Rights, we know that these rights are applicable to all citizens and there are no exceptions for the incompetency of its enforcement. “Right to be forgotten” is not specifically mentioned under “Article 21 of the Indian Constitution”, but can be carved out from the frameworks of the fundamental rights. Article 21 which is a Fundamental Right held by the case of “K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India” talks about the rights which the State enforces against itself , also seen in the case of “Golak Nath v. State of Punjab” where the state could not curtail the fundamental right.
Now talking specifically about The Right to be forgotten, it states that a person has utmost control about whether he or she wishes to dissociate themselves with any particular social media app or website if they wish to do so devoid of any reason.
The same can be done after they take permission from any Court of India, the court can give out notices to S Tier companies like Google and Facebook to comply with the dissociation of users. It is still to be cemented as an absolute right, which means currently its enforcement can’t be guaranteed and is also limited. Absolute rights are rights which cannot be suspended or restricted in any condition, even during “Emergency”.
“K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India” is a landmark case which talks about Right to Privacy, another reason for it being a landmark case is that it introduced the concept of Right to be forgotten in India, which was officially introduced via “Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019”. “Some countries like The European Union (which were the first group of countries to have accepted it, incorporated it in the form of directives and data protection policies), China, Argentina and South Korea have already adopted the same in multitudinous ways. However, the spark that set this flame can be found in the French law, le droit il'oubli (the right of oblivion) which empowers a convicted criminal to object the publication of the facts of his conviction on the completion of the term of punishment.”
This aim of this right is to protect the privacy and ensure a secure living for citizens. We now live in an era, where humanity is on a path to the future depicted in many Cyberpunk like arts. Technology is hitting a new high every day, new inventions being made around the clock. We live in a time where every bit of information regarding our lives can be found on the internet. Every single piece of data, from the name of our playlist to the OTP (One Time Password) of a transaction is stored in the database of the internet which can be exploited at any given time. As of today major concerns regarding Climate Change, LGBTQIA community and many more topics are just blotches of ink in a never ending list of priorities to fulfill, including the Right to privacy and security. Nobody wants his or her personal data and information to be leaked or be referred by anyone without their consent or willingness. This right gives them a shield to protect something they don’t wish to be leaked.
This right can be used by a person to start their life anew, reinvent themselves and quite literally live another life. Many people may not be proud about their actions in the past, maybe the actions they committed were done unwillingly or were just mistakes. The past cannot be changed, even if your actions were without vicious intent, facts remain indisputable, even if the person has fulfilled the legal damages people don’t forgive so easily. To move on, is an option by which a person can go to a court by asking to have his name removed from a particular case by giving valid reasoning (after completing or fulfilling the damages and punishment or after being announced innocent). “In a recent case litigants asked the Karnataka High Court to erase the trials and tribunals of the case as by the same there has been a social boycott or harm to reputation, of not only the litigant but also his family.”
“There are also some instances in which the petitioner or respondent come to the court asking for the hiding or removal of their name, secrecy of their name or their personal details in cases like sexual offence . The same has been done in the Supreme Court, in the bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice MM Sundresh.”
Following are some cases in which Right to be Forgotten plays an important role:
“Jorawar Singh Mundy v Union of India & Ors” :
A petition was filed for the removal of petitioner’s name from Google and other websites. He is an American citizen and when he came to India, a case regarding drugs was filed against him. He requested the removal of his name as it was affecting his job even after the removal of charges on him.
“Subranshu Raot v. State of Odisha”:
This case states the right to be forgotten as a remedy for victims whose sexually explicit pictures and videos get leaked on social media with the intent of harassing the victims.
“State of Punjab v. Gurmeet Singh and Ors”
In this case, the Supreme Court has held that anonymity can help protect victims of sexual offence on the social media.
Now by looking into the above mentioned cases and judgments, we can explicitly say that the right to be forgotten is very crucial in today’s world. But, despite of all this, we should not forget about the darker side of this coin.
The concerns of the right to be forgotten are as follows:-
Violation of Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Speech – it is known that Freedom of Expression is a universal human right, any person can express himself regarding someone or something openly on social media and the internet. But, the presence of the right to be forgotten makes a dent in the concept of freedom of expression. The same is also a threat to the freedom of speech of an individual.
Decrease of quality of the internet – censorship being an issue and the rewriting of history, the quality of information available on the internet will deteriorate because of the lack of authentic and reliable information.
Threat to Journalism – with the introduction of this right, the occupation that would be affected the most would be that of journalism, they will always have a hanging sword above their head regarding which issue or news would come under this particular right and be censored.
By observing all the above points we can say that even with the loopholes and concerns, this right gives a second chance to people letting them turn their lives around by securing their reputation again helping them forget their past , allowing them to focus on the future and move on.
As of now there is no specific or particular law for the right to be forgotten, by looking at the facts regarding this case, the advantages and disadvantages posing this topic, one can say that disadvantages come with every topic. The disadvantages of this topic are quite troublesome to say the least but, while enforcing any right one shall face multiple problems, but they have to be dealt with. The problems that follow this right can be solved; the advantages of this situation outweigh the disadvantages, with enough time and resources this right can be enforced, fully fledged, without any loopholes. In today’s time this right is a must, without it society will surely feel incomplete in the coming years, it will benefit the general public regardless.
Bar and Bench
1] Article 21 – Right to life and personal liberty
2] K.S. Puttaswamy (Aadhar/Privacy-3J.) v. Union of India, (2015) 8 SCC 735
3] Golak Nath v. State of Punjab, AIR 1967 SC 1643, 1708: (1967) 2 SCR 762
4] Article 352 – Proclamation of Emergency
5] Aims at providing the protection of data to the individuals
6] The Need for the Right to be Forgotten in India, 5.1 RFMLR (2018) 106
9] Jorawar Singh Mundy v Union of India & Ors W.P. (C) 3918/ 2020
10] Subranshu Raot v. State of Odisha WP (C)/4159/2020
11] State of Punjab v. Gurmeet Singh and Ors 1996 AIR 1393, 1996 SCC (2) 384
This article is written by Mimuksha Darak of Symbiosis law school, Pune.