Data protection Bill has provisions for ‘right to be forgotten’, Centre tells HC

Petition seeks removal of articles relating to a criminal case

The Centre has informed the Delhi High Court that the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019, which was tabled in Parliament on Thursday, contains provisions related to the ‘right to be forgotten’.

‘Right to be forgotten’ is a fairly new concept in India where an individual could seek to remove or delete online posts which may contain an embarrassing picture, video or news articles mentioning them.

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), in an affidavit, stated that the international legal concept of ‘right to be forgotten’ is evolving in India. “The right to privacy is a fundamental right and it also includes the right to be forgotten,” the Ministry said.

“The Government of India, understanding the need to protect its citizens and their privacy, has brought out the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019. This Bill contains provisions related to the doctrine of ‘right to be forgotten’,” the Ministry added.

The affidavit highlighted two judgments passed by the Orissa High Court and the Karnataka High Court where they have accepted the doctrine of the ‘right to be forgotten’ as an essential part of the ‘right to privacy’.

MeitY’s affidavit came in response to a petition filed by two businessmen before the High Court seeking to remove certain articles, relating to a criminal case lodged against them, from various online platforms. Businessmen Jaideep Mirchandani, an NRI, and Siraj Amani, in their joint petition, said they were aggrieved by certain online articles related to their arrest in a 2002 case, from which they were acquitted in 2016.

The petition argued that even though the businessmen “had been honourably discharged by the competent courts, yet the alleged articles and wrong information available against petitioners continue to haunt them”.

The businessmen said they have the ‘right to be forgotten’ or the ‘right to delink’ in the context of the facts and circumstances of the case.

The Ministry added that the Information Technology Act provides for blocking certain information for public access. It said the IT Act also allows removal of certain unlawful information from an intermediary platform.

It said since the petitioners are seeking removal of court order related to information available online, the High Court could directly issue directions to the concerned parties.

Earlier, the court had also issued notice to search engine giant Google on the businessmen’s plea but declined to grant interim relief to them.

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