In today's world, where technology has pierced into almost every aspect of
our lives, information can easily be accessed on the internet. The internet has
taken the world by a storm and the tides just flow in its favor and do not seem
to slow down. Personal information is increasingly stored on the internet for an
indefinite period of time. This changes the norm from forgetting-by-default, as
experienced in the human brain, to a norm of remembering-by-default experienced
through the wonders of technology.
The ambit of digitization has enabled the storage of almost all sorts of
information on the internet. There is an excess of information available online
which, in many cases, is a blessing for the people, however, on the other hand,
it also acts as a curse for some. There arise certain instances where people do
not want their whereabouts to be made a part of the public domain on various
social media websites. And rightly so, the privacy of the citizens of a country
should be well respected and not violated at all.
The loss of privacy needs to be conserved which gave rise to the Right to be
Forgotten asit provides people to have the civil right to request for the
removal of any personal information from the Internet.
"Right to be forgotten" is a relatively new term which is finding its roots in
the current legal system with great implication for privacy, freedom of
expression and internet policies. If you live in a country that recognizes right
to be forgotten then you can easily request to remove data that's online if it
has become irrelevant in the present time though it comes with certain
The "Right to be forgotten" in simple sense means that we have a right to have
our information that is publically available to the people at large get removed
from the different sources such a accessed online, engines, libraries, blogs or
any other publike platform, once the personal data in the dispute is no
longer required or relevant. But it is independent of the right of oblivion or
right to erasure. This right comes within the umbrella of the intellectual
privacy available to ever human.
Though it is a new concept, it has attained a great importance in India, as we
can see in the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 (though currently it has been
Evolution Of "Right to be Forgotten"
The origin of this right can be traced back to the French jurisprudence on the
droit a loubli
also known as 'Right to oblivion'
in 2010. This
right favored the convicted criminals, who had completed their crimes and their
criminal life. The concept of this right was brought up by an incident which
happened in the year 1998 which led to the formation of this right in the
European Union. A Spaniard named Mario Costeja Gonz'lez ran into financial
difficulties and was in severe need of funds.
So he advertised his property in the newspaper for auction and that article
ended up on the internet by chance. As a result Mr. Gonz was never forgotten by
the internet. Even after settling his financial issue, whenever someone searched
about him the bankruptcy showed up which had a severe damage to his reputation
and he had difficulty finding jobs as it imparted a bad reputation on the
employers. Thus, he took the matter to the court. In 2010, Mr. Gonzalez filed
case regarding this issue which is popularly known as Google Spain v.
The European Court of Justice ruled against Google and said that the European
citizens have the right to remove their information from the internet under
certain circumstances such as when the information has become irrelevant and the
search engine is obliged to do so.
In May 2018, EU gave this right a status by providing it in the Article 17 of
General Data Protection Regulation. Article 17 of GDPR provides that "the data
subject has the right to request erasure of personal data related to him on any
one of a number of grounds including non-compliance with article 6.1
(lawfulness) that includes a case (f) where the legitimate interests of the
controller is overridden by the interests or fundamental rights and freedoms of
the data subject which require protection of personal data".
But in 2019, the courts ruled that the right to be forgotten does not apply
beyond Europe and only European citizens can avail it.
Many other countries have given recognition to this right such as USA, Argentina
and India. The current legal framework that prevails in India in relation to
this right had been discussed below and many case laws that are relevant are
Recognizing the Right to be Forgotten in India
India, at present does not have any statutory provision that provides the
citizens with the right to be forgotten. But a new wave to reform took place in
the modern world and there was mention of the right to be forgotten in the new
Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 that was drafted by B.N. Srikrishana
committee. To state again this right means that every data subject (individual)
has the right to remove he contents they post online if the content is
irrelevant or no longer severs the purpose for which it was created.
In the current scenario, this right does not have any status as the fundamental
right and the matter has been left to the judicial interpretations by the
different high courts of the country. But these courts do not have a single view
on this matter as in different high courts the matter has been decided
differently and the courts have given contrasting judgments
Significant Judicial Decisions:
- Dharamraj Bhanushankar Dave v. State of Gujarat 
was that the respondents published a few offensive articles against Zulfiqar
during the #me too campaign as they had received certain anonymous
allegations against him. The plaintiff requested the deletion of such
articles as they harmed This is the first case that comes in our mind when
we think of a case related to right to be forgotten.
It is a case of 2017. The petitioner approached the high court under the
article 226 of the constitution requesting restraint on the publication of
orders and judgments of all the courts all over the internet. He pleaded to
obtain an appropriate writ against it. It posed problems when it came to the
privacy of the petitioner and also affected his personal and professional
life. The main issue of this case was whether or not the judgment could be
published on the internet.
The high court said that a judgment that is in appeal was a part of the
proceedings and mere publication does not amount to the same as the word
"reportable". Thus, the judgment was disposed off as there was no such law
that to support the claims of the petitioner. Through this judgment we can
see the times when the courts have been asked to intervene by parties to
have information being removed from the search engines.
- Vasunathan v. Registrar General 
In contrast to the Gujarat high court, the Karnataka high court ruled in
favor of the petitioner and removed the name of the petitioner's daughter
from the case title as it could lead to defamation of her reputation. And
while doing so the court 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 court directed the registry to do the appropriate thing. But an
interesting thing is that the court itself restrained from making any
changes on the high court website and the certified copy of the judgment.
- Zulfiqar Ahman Khan v. Quintillion Business Media Pvt. Ltd. & Ors
This case is related to the Delhi high court. The issue his reputation. The
court held that while the lawsuit is pending in the court and there is no
judgment regarding it, the site (quint.com) had to delete and not republish
those pieces. The court also acknowledged the plaintiff's right to his
privacy and reputation, both of which include the right to be left alone and
right to be forgotten. From this judgment we can see that the court
recognized the right to be forgotten.
- Jorawar Singh Mundy v. Union of India 
The latest case that is related to this right is of Jorawar Singh Mundy. In
this case Jorawar who is an American citizen of Indian descent was charged
for narcotics abuse when he came to India in 2009. But he was later
acquitted. But several sites reported that case on the internet. And
recently Jorawar filed a writ petition in the Delhi high court for the
removal of this information online as it was irrelevant.
The court ruled in the favor of the petitioner and directed the sites to
remove the judgment from the internet. The court stated that currently there
is no statutory provision granting this right but they relied on the
precedent of European Union to give this judgment. They also stated that the
Right to privacy and Right to be forgotten go hand in hand,
From the above judgments we can see that the courts have recognized the
right to be forgotten to some extent by giving the judgment in the favor of
the petitioner. Even in the landmark case of K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of
India  the SC recognized this right as Right to life under Article
21. This gave right to be forgotten the status of an evolving fundamental
Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019
The current legal system of India that governs data protection on the internet
is the Information Technology Act, 2000. But even in this act there is no
section that recognizes an individual's "Right to be forgotten". But as the
world progresses to be more digitized, a bill was proposed relating to the
protection of personal data of individual's which also talked about recognizing
this right to be forgotten. Though this bill could not make its way to becoming
an act and was withdrawn beforehand, but it still is a progress in the current
This bill was framed under the Srikrishna Committee which was chaired by B.N.
Srikrishna who is a retired justice of the Supreme Court. The aim of this
committee was to provide a data privacy framework which can be enforced knowing
the other existing laws in mind.
The bill that was drafted by the committee is quite similar to its European
counterpart known as the GDPR in relation to its impact on the citizens. The
White Paper on Data Protection hint that the inspiration behind the inclusion of
the right to be forgotten in the European Union and in its Provisional views and
also specifically discusses the Google Spain judgment.
When we talk about the "right to be forgotten" it is mentioned in Clause 20
under Chapter V of the bill which gave an individual the right to restrict or
prevent the continuing discloser of their personal data.
In Clause 20 (1): The data principal shall have the right to restrict or prevent
the continuing discloser of their personal data by a data fiduciary where this
data is :
- Has served the purpose for which it was collected or is no longer
necessary for the purpose;
- Was made with the consent of the data principal under section 11 and
such consent has since been withdrawn; or
- Was made contrary to the provisions of this act or any other law for the
time being in force.
When we look deeper into the clauses we see that in clause there should be an
Adjudicating Officer to whom the application should be submitted by the data
principal and there are some prescriptions given considering which the officer
should issue his order regarding the matter.
Not only this have had we found many other sections which are either directly or
to some extent similar to this right to be forgotten. Such as Section 18
which mentions the "Right of Erasure" which every citizen should have. We also
have section 19 which has wording such that we can get hints that it is related
to the right to be forgotten.
Similar Right In Other Countries:
"Right to be forgotten"
- European Union
When we talk about the EU they have made tremendous growth in this sense. The
Data Protection Directive was adopted way back in 1995 in order to regulate the
citizen's personal data. It played an important role in the EU's privacy as well
as human rights law. The country has witnessed many things in order to what it
is today in terms of having a right to be forgotten.
In April 2016, the country adopted The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
which superseded the previous 1995 directive. When we look deeper into GDPR we
find that Article 17 provides that the data subject has the right to request
erasure of personal data related to them on any one of a number of grounds, that
includes non-compliance with Article 6(1). Thus we can say that GDPR's
Article 17 has outlined the circumstances under which the citizens of the
European Union can get to exercise their "right to be forgotten".
- United States of America
Unlike the citizens of the European Union, the American citizens do not enjoy
such a right. Even though we can find instances in the court rulings that
support this right there is no hard and fast regulation that backs it up. But
The State of New York has drafted a bill know as "Right to be forgotten" Bill in
its State Assembly, which it named "n act to amend the civil rights law and the
civil practice law and rules, in relation to creating the right to be
a right that has its root in European Union's "Google Spain" case but it is still an emerging and evolving right in India. The
Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019 was an extremely big step in the recognizing
this right, but to our disappointment it has been withdrawal as of now. As
mentioned in the above sections, the courts don't have a particular perspective
on how to recognize this right and have given contrasting judgments through the
years, thus it is a need of the hour to have such a right which allows the
citizens to get their personal information removed from the internet.
Though the critics mention that it clashes with a few fundamental rights and
should not find a place in the current legal framework that India has, but the
author of this paper believes that this right should come into existence by
striking a balance between the right to be forgotten and the rights that it
clashes with and this should be done with extreme care by the Parliament and the
Supreme court. Data is a really precious thing in today's world and should to be
Everyone has their own amount of bad times and everyone makes mistakes and if
they have been acquitted of that mistake they should have a right to be
forgotten , so that the people in the society don't see them in bad light and
accept them in good light. Thus, the "right to be forgotten" should be a valid
right in India.
- Google Spain, 2014 E.C.R. 317
- GDPR, 2016, art. 17.
- The Personal Data Protection Bill 2019
- Dharamraj Bhanushankar Dave v. State of Gujarat, 2017 SCC OnLine Guj
- Vasunathan v. Registrar General, (2017) SCC Online Kar 424
- Zulfiqar Ahman Khan v. Quintillion Business Media Pvt. Ltd. & Ors. AIR
2019 Del. 132
- Jorawer Singh Mundy v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 2306
- Justice K.S. Puttuswamy (Retd.) , (2017) 10 SCC 1
- Google Spain, 2014 E.C.R. 317
- The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019
- The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019
- GDPR, 2016 art. 17