IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


27th February, 2023 POLITY AND GOVERNANCE

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Context: The Delhi High Court is set to hear a doctor's petition for the enforcement of his "Right to be Forgotten,"


Highlights of the Case

  • The Delhi High Court is set to hear a doctor's petition for the enforcement of his "Right to be Forgotten," which includes the removal of news stories and other offensive content related to his "wrongful arrest" in response to a "fabricated FIR" that he claims is endangering his life and personal freedom.
  • The doctor requested the Court to issue orders to respondents like Google, the Press Information Bureau, and the Press Council of India ordering them to remove all "irrelevant" news content harming his reputation and dignity and to issue any other orders or directions necessary to protect his dignity, including exercising his "Right to be Forgotten."

Right to be Forgotten

  • The ‘Right to be Forgotten’ is a fundamental right granted to individuals in some countries and regions around the world. It allows people to request the removal of personal information from public records that have been published online, such as on social media platforms, search engines and other websites.
  • This right is seen as a way for individuals to protect their privacy and secure their data from unwanted access. It also provides people with a way to control how much of their personal data is accessible on the internet.

Why ‘Right to be Forgotten’ is Important?

  • The Right has become increasingly important in recent years due to the vast amount of data being published online and the potential for it to be misused or abused by those with malicious intent.
  • The right helps to protect individuals’ privacy by allowing them greater control over their own data and ensuring that it is not used without their permission or consent.
  • It helps in promoting digital privacy overall, as it encourages companies and organizations to take more responsibility for how they handle personal information.
  • With this right, individuals can protect their privacy and prevent potential harm caused by outdated, inaccurate, or irrelevant information being easily accessible online.

Legal Status of the Right to be Forgotten in India

  • According to Section 43A of the Information Technology Act of 2000, organizations that have sensitive personal data but fail to keep it secure enough to prevent loss or unjust benefit to anybody may be required to make compensation to the victim.
  • In 2019, the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology introduced the Personal Data Protection Bill in the Lok Sabha. Clause 20 under Chapter V of the bill titled “Rights of Data Principal” mentions the “Right to be Forgotten” as the right to restrict or prevent the continuing disclosure of personal data by a “data fiduciary”. This bill is yet to be passed by the parliament,
  • The IT Rules, 2021 do not include this right, but they outlined the process for making complaints to the appointed grievance officer to remove online material that contains personal information about a complainant.

Supreme Court verdict on the Right to be Forgotten

  • After the Supreme Court’s decision in the "K.S.Puttaswamy vs. Union of India," case (2017) the right has consistently been declared to be inherent to an individual's Right to Privacy under Article 21. However, it is not officially recognised by Indian law.
  • In the case of "K.S.Puttaswamy v. Union of India," a nine-judge bench noted the European Union Regulation of 2016 that recognised "the right to be forgotten," or the ability of an individual to request the removal of personal data from a system when "he is no longer willing of his personal data to be processed or stored" or when “its no longer necessary, relevant, or is incorrect and serves no legitimate interest”. However, the court also recognized that such a right can be restricted in case of;
    • Right to freedom of expression and information.
    • Compliance with legal obligations.
    • Performance of tasks in the public interest.
    • Public interest in the area of “public health” or “scientific or historical research purposes or statistical purposes,
    • Establishment” and “exercise or defence of legal claims”.
  • In the “Jorawer Singh Mundy vs Union of India” case (2021) an American citizen approached the Delhi High Court seeking the removal of all publicly available records of a case registered against him under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985.
    • He claimed that even though the trial court had cleared him back in 2011, a quick Google search disclosed the court's ruling in his case, which prevented him from finding employment in the USA.
    • Despite having a strong academic background, he said that this hurt his career opportunities. Thus, the court directed respondents like ‘Indian Kanoon’ to remove the same.


  • Free speech organizations and supporters warn that the “right to be forgotten” online is in danger of being transformed into a tool of global censorship. Removing information from the Internet conflicts with the open nature of the Web and the free flow of information.
  • Google had argued that the obligation could be abused by authoritarian governments trying to cover up human rights abuses were it to be applied outside of Europe.

Pros and Cons of “Right to be Forgotten”

  • The right to be forgotten carries several benefits for persons seeking to remove past information from the Internet but does raise equally as many concerns about the practicality of its implementation.
  • The chart below outlines the major pros and cons of the Right to be Forgotten:



Self-determination of your online presence

Your need for removal may be outweighed by the general public’s interest in accessing and viewing such information

The ability to remove libellous, embarrassing, and stigmatizing information from a past post or upload

It carries a potential restraint on the freedoms afforded to media, journalists, and other parties under the First Amendment

The removal of illegally uploaded content by a third party, including “revenge porn”

Relatively broad, and undeveloped, with lacking precedent

An opportunity for a fresh start

Google and other search engines may be backed up with requests to remove information, so it may not be removed immediately

Removing personal details that compromise your personal and financial safety

Lack of transparency surrounding important information about businesses or persons

Peace of mind when applying for jobs

Potential restraint on the media, journalism, and other freedom of speech

Way Forward

  • The right to be forgotten is a right that removes one’s personal information from the internet which is a public space. However, while exercising this right, one is curtailing the public’s right to information which is under the freedom of expression. To put it simply, the search query results will disappear gradually if this right is claimed extensively. Hence, there is a need to balance both these rights on a case-to-case basis. And as The Justice Sri Krishna Committee rightly reiterates, the balancing test should be conducted by the adjudicators and not by the search engines.
  • The Right to be forgotten requests should be considered by the search engines with a comprehensive framework provided by the law. This will ensure limited intervention by the state or a company in the personal choices of the individuals.
  • After all, the entire Internet today is so influential that it can shape lives and opinions in such a way that a person shouldn't be a prisoner of his or her past. People should be able to escape their discreditable criminal history.
  • The approach must be “Balancing the right to be forgotten and the right to freedom of expression”.


Q. Critically Analyze the significance of the Right to be forgotten in the modern Digital world.