The Delhi High Court on Tuesday issued notice in a plea moved by two businessmen seeking the removal of news articles from the internet on their past arrest and trial in a criminal case after their acquittal in the said case (Jaideep Mirchandani and Anr. v Union of India Ministry of Communication and IT and Ors.).
The petitioners told the Court that the continued availability of the judgment and articles on their arrest and trial were adversley affecting their career and personal life. Even after acquittal, these articles were available online, it was pointed out. The continued avaiabilty of the said news articles gave an impression that the petitioners were involved in Illegal smuggling activities, which they were never part of, either in India or abroad, it was submitted. These articles have caused much hardship to the petitioners as the government agencies and clients that have previously worked with them have started to avoid them. It was submitted that the petitioners have a right to be forgotten and be delinked from the case once they have been acquitted of all charges. The case was listed before Justice Rekha Palli, who issued notice and posted the case for further hearing on 28 October, 2021. The petitioners are being represented by advocates Aman Vaccher and Ashutosh Dubey. The plea said the businessmen have the ‘right to be forgotten’ or a ‘right to delink’ in the context of the facts and circumstances of the case. It said the petitioners have a right to ask the authorities to remove all the links related to him on the search index, which is “irrelevant and obsolete and jeopardize petitioners’ prospective employment/ business opportunities and make them suffer difficulties in life for no fault of their own”
The right to be forgotten refers to the right to have one's personal details removed from the public domain, including the internet, once such information is no longer relevant or required to be publicly available.
On a related note, the Madras HC recently had occasion to consider a similar issue when a formerly accused man moved the Court seeking the redaction of his name from Court judgments and orders once he was acquitted in the case. The Madras High Court initially opined that an accused person who is eventually acquitted of all charges is entitled to have his name redacted from court orders. However, ultimately, the Judge concluded that the right to be forgotten cannot exist when it comes to judgments of the Court.
Last year, the Kerala HC had admitted a plea seeking erasure of the petitioner’s personal details from a Google search result. The Orissa High Court has also lamented the lack of a mechanism to permanently delete information from the internet in order to safeguard the right to be forgotten. The same was observed in a bail application moved by a person who videographed intimate photographs of his sexual assault on a woman and uploaded them on Facebook.
Justice Rekha Palli, however, declined to grant any interim relief to the businessmen at this stage saying, “You have a right to privacy but we have to see how we can balance it”. The judge posted the case for further hearing on October 28.