Right to be Forgotten: A Forgotten Part of Right to Privacy

Right to privacy is a fundamental right and not merely a common man right. The ambit of the right to life embodied in Art.21 is wide and far reaching[1]. The right to life has been liberally interpreted so as to mean something more than mere survival and mere existence. It, therefore, includes all those aspects of life which go to make man’s life meaningful, complete and worth living.[2] To make one’s life meaningful and complete right to privacy is a core aspect of life.

Right to be forgotten is a part of privacy that needs to be provided for every individual for protecting his sensitive private and personal information. The availability of a plethora of information sometimes becomes inconsistent with the desire for privacy. There may be instances, where information that one wishes to hide from the public domain, is available freely online. To imbibe the concept of a dignified life guaranteed by Art.21 right to be forgotten need to be considered as a facet of right to privacy thus a fundamental right.

POSITION IN US AND UK REGARDING RIGHT TO BE FORGOTTEN

The concept of the right to be forgotten had originated from the much older droit à l’oubli (right to oblivion) that has historically been applied in exceptional cases involving an individual who has served a criminal sentence and wishes to no longer be associated with the criminal actions.

The right to be forgotten has been recognised as a part of the right to privacy in countries like UK and US. But in both the countries this right is not regarded as an absolute one and it needs to be balanced with the right to freedom of speech and expression and right to information. In May 2014, the Court of Justice of the European Union (‘Court’) recognized the right to be forgotten as a part of the fundamental right to privacy in the case of Google Spain SL, Google Inc. v Agencia Española de Protección de Datos, Mario Costeja González[3].  Similarly in US in the case of Melvin v. Reid[4], the court recognised right to be forgotten as a part of right to privacy and reasoned that “any person living a life of rectitude has that right to happiness which includes a freedom from unnecessary attacks on his character, social standing or reputation”.

VIEW OF INDIAN HIGH COURTS ON RIGHT TO BE FORGOTTEN

The Karnataka High Court in the case of Sri Vasunathan v. Registrar General[5], upheld a women’s right to be forgotten and Justice Bypareddy had observed that “This is in line with the trend in western countries of the ‘right to be forgotten’ in sensitive cases involving women in general and highly sensitive cases involving rape or affecting the modesty and reputation of the person concerned.”

The Kerala High Court had also recognised the right to be forgotten as a part of the right to privacy[6]. In this case, a writ petition was filed for protection of the right to privacy under Art.21 of the constitution and petitioner was seeking directions from the court for the removal of the name and personal information of the rape victim from the search engines in order to protect her identity. The court held in favour of the petitioners recognising the right to be forgotten and issued an interim order directing the search engine to remove the name of the petitioner from orders posted on its website until further orders were issued.

The famous privacy judgment is also highly significant also for the holding on the right to be forgotten. The concurrent judgment delivered by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul affirmed and identified the right to be forgotten, in physical and virtual spaces such as the internet, under the umbrella of informational privacy. The right to be forgotten puts individual in control of the information they put and seek out to the erasure of data concerning them[7].

CONCLUSION

Art 21 is an ever expanding and the list of rights under its ambit is not exhaustive. Right to be forgotten too is such a right, which comes under the preview of the right to privacy. Though the right to be forgotten can be termed as a narrow right, it is obvious that this right must be protected in all sensitive cases and in issues of informational privacy to protect the true object of holding the right to privacy as a fundamental right.

[1] Indian Constitutional Law, M.P.Jain 6th edition, Lexis Nexis Butterworths Wadhwa Nagpur

[2] ibid

[3] Case C-131/12, Google Spain SL, Google Inc. v. Agencia Espa ˜nola de Protecci ´on de Datos (AEPD), Mario Costeja Gonz ´alez, 2014 ECLI:EU:C:2014:317

[4] Cal.App. 285, 297 P.91 (1931)

[5] Petition No.62038 of 2016, Karnataka HC

[6] Sredharan T v. State Of Kerala,Civil Writ Petition No. 9478 of 2016

[7] Justice K.S Puttaswamy v Union of India


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sowjanya S

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Miss Sowjanya S is a third-year law student at School of law, Sastra deemed to be University, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu where she is pursuing B.com LL.B.(Hons). She hails from Chennai where she had also completed her schooling. Research had always been a fascinating work for her.  She is a hardworking smart student who always has the curiosity to learn. She loves to brainstorm problems and find effective solutions.

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