People can now access the Internet quite easily thanks to the development of artificial intelligence. The advent of digitalization has made it simple for anyone to access someone’s personal information by performing a simple search on a search engine like Yahoo or Google. It is often important for people to approach the relevant government to prevent them from having access to such information because the information that is frequently released is false and can seriously hurt anyone’s reputation. Consequently, it becomes vital to prevent people from having their data used in unwanted ways.
Through the removal or deletion of superfluous internet content, a law known as “The Right to Be Forgotten” (RTBF) protects against it. This power also goes by the phrase “Right to Erasure.” The legitimacy of this right has been called into question in several cases, but following the Puttaswamy decision, the Right to Privacy (RtP) was upheld.
The “RTBF” and the “RTI” are two distinct generalizations; the former addresses the concern of eliminating information and making it inaccessible to the public, while the latter addresses the concern of making information available to the public, as they have a right to know what is happening across the world.
Through entertaining case laws and rulings, the author explores the RTBF and its compass. This exploratory paper compares RTBF and RTI.
THE ORIGIN OF THE “RTBF”
The RTBF began with the notorious Google Spain case, where the European Court of Justice ruled that “the operator of a search engine is obliged to remove the personal information that is inadequate, irrelevant, or no longer relevant” from Google. In 2016, the European Union espoused the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which provides the right for individuals to abolish their data from the internet by asking the organizers; Article 17 of the same provides the right to the erasure of certain orders of particular data that is no longer valid or necessary.
The RTBF gained worldwide attention after the Google case, and several countries honoured it. Russia legislated a law that allows users to force a search engine to remove links to particular information on grounds of irrelevancy, inaccuracy, and violation of law, while Turkey and Siberia have honoured it to ‘some extent’.
THE EVOLUTION OF RTBF IN INDIA
The RTBF is still in its preliminary stage in India. It is a new concept and has not been fully recognized in India. It came to light in the case of Dharamraj Bhanushankar Dave v. State of Gujarat & Ors. (2015), where the accused was charged with various offences under IPC, but he was acquitted by the Gujarat High Court. He wanted to remove people from having access to his judgment and requested not to publish. However, the court did not agree to this and dismissed his petition. This made it clear that the RTBF was not acknowledged in the above case.
In Jorawar Singh Mundy vs. UOI & Ors., the judgment came in favour of the petitioner, and it was directed to the respondent to remove the judgment from the respective websites. In the above case, the RtP was recognized above the RTI. Furthermore, in Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retired) v. UOI, the landmark judgment delivered by the Supreme Court recognized the “RtP” as a part of the fundamental right under “Article 21”. Some legal practitioners contend that the RtP also includes the RTBF, but this statement was not accepted by the Madras High Court, and the court refused to grant relief of the RtP to the person charged with the criminal offences but was acquitted.
So from the above judicial pronouncement, it is still not clear whether the protection of the RTBF is a part of the fundamental RtP or not.
THE RTBF IN COMPARISON WITH THE RTI
The RTBF is a complex issue; on one hand, as technology gets more enhanced day by day, it is important to protect people from gratuitous use of their data, and on the other hand, it is also important to provide information to the public since every individual holds a right to be informed, and thus it becomes a matter of concern to produce a balance between them. The RTI isn’t absolute; it’s subject to certain limitations concerning matters of national security, international relations, and information that violates a person’s sequestration; thus, it can be said that the RTBF is available under the RTI Act.
The IT Act, a particular section of the legislation, specifically protects privacy and personal information. Any corporate entity that handles, deals with, or owns any “sensitive personal data” or information is required under Section 43A to maintain reasonable data security practices and procedures. It will be necessary to give reparation to the victim in the event of any negligence.
The RTBF limits the right to freedom of speech and expression, and thus, proper law is necessary to be enforced to remove the loopholes. However, judges, through various judgments, have answered some but ignored others. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology introduced the Personal Data Protection Bill (PDBR) in 2019 but has not passed it yet. Thus, it is still not clear whether the RTBF falls under the dimensions of the RTP or not.
The RTBF establishes an important rule against the unwanted information that gets published, which not only deteriorates the character of a person but also causes serious mental agony. Disputes can be resolved through PDBR. The author believes that an individual’s right to privacy is of paramount significance and should be defended at any cost; therefore, the RTBF must fairly exist.
The author discusses the origin of the RTBF and its phase in the Indian script through colourful case laws. The next part of the blog draws attention to striking a balance between the RTBF and the RTI. On a concluding note, the RTBF is a contested subject; the inconsistency of the judiciary has made it more complex, and presently, no law clearly defines this right. Moreover, with the increase in the number of cases, the “RTBF” is receiving attention. Although it is still in its development stage, soon it will get legal recognition.
Author(s) Name: Khushi Tiwari (Renaissance Law College, Indore)