[Editorial Analysis] Right to Be Forgotten

Mains Paper 2: Polity
Prelims level: Right to be forgotten
Mains level: Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.


• LAST WEEK, the Centre told the Delhi High Court that the “right to be forgotten” is part of the fundamental right to privacy, but added it has no significant role to play in the matter.

• Petitions across courts have been seeking enforcement of this “right” —a legal principle that is not yet backed by statute in India.

What is the ‘Right to be Forgotten’ in the Indian context?

• The Right to be Forgotten falls under the purview of an individual’s right to privacy.

• In 2017, the Right to Privacy was declared a fundamental right (under Article 21) by the Supreme Court in its landmark verdict (Puttuswamy case).

Right to Be Forgotten-The Global Picture:

• The ‘right to be forgotten’ is the right to have publicly available personal information removed from the internet, search, databases, websites or any other public platforms, once the personal information in question is no longer necessary, or relevant.

• The first known instance where Right to Be Forgotten was used was in 2014. In Spain, a man asked Google to remove links to an old newspaper article which spoke about his previous bankruptcy. Since his debts were paid in full there was little relevancy of that article being online.

• As a result, the European Court of Justice ruled against Google and declared that under certain circumstances a European Union citizen could have his personal information removed from the public database. Of course this ruling does not apply outside the borders of the EU.

• Right to be forgotten is different from right to privacy. Right to privacy deals with information that is not there in the public domain while right to be forgotten deals with publicly known information and preventing third parties from accessing that information.

• Limitations of application in a jurisdiction include the inability to require removal of information held by companies outside the jurisdiction.

• As of now, Right to be Forgotten is mainly exercised in countries part of the European Union.

Right to be Forgotten- Position in India?

• The Right to be Forgotten 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.

• In 2017, the Right to Privacy was declared a fundamental right by the Supreme Court in its landmark verdict. The court said at the time that, “the right to privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 and as a part of the freedoms guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution”.

What does the Personal Data Protection Bill say about this?

• The Personal Data Protection Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha on December 11, 2019 and it aims to set out provisions meant for the protection of the personal data of individuals.

• Clause 20 under Chapter V of this draft bill titled “Rights of Data Principal” mentions the “Right to be Forgotten.” It states that the “data principal (the person to whom the data is related) shall have the right to restrict or prevent the continuing disclosure of his personal data by a data fiduciary”.

Let’s Discuss Some Pros and Cons of it briefly :

Pros :

• RTBF can remove slanderous, libelous information form the net.

• Can remove illegally uploaded content by a third party.

• An opportunity for a fresh start.

• An individual can control what information anyone sees.

• Removing personal details that compromise your personal and financial safety.

Cons :

• The individual’s need for privacy may be overridden by the public’s overall interest in viewing and accessing information.

• RTBF is a broad and underdeveloped concept without any precedent.

• Lack of transparency surrounding important information about businesses or persons.

• It places potential restriction on the freedom afforded to media, journalist and other parties.

Way forward:

• Balancing the right to be forgotten and the right to freedom of expression.

• For now, there is no way to predict how the right to be forgotten would be moulded by the Indian courts.

• Currently, it is a budding judicial concept that will take some amount of debate and deconstruction to make sense.


Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the Bullock cart races, consider the following statements:

1. The Supreme Court recently allowed Maharashtra to hold bullock cart races in the state till the pendency of the matter before the constitutional Bench of the apex court.

2. In 2017, the Maharashtra assembly had passed a legislation for resumption of bullock cart races across the state.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: C

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