Updated: December 17, 2021 8:18:31 am
The Centre has told the Delhi High Court that the international legal concept of the right to be forgotten is evolving in India and it comes under the right to privacy which has been held to be a fundamental right by the Supreme Court. However, the government also said it does not have a ‘significant role’ to play in the matter in which the petitioners have sought relief under the right.
In response to a petition filed by two international businessmen who have sought an order of right to be forgotten with the removal of the judgment and a news article related to their arrest in a conspiracy and forgery case of 2002, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) said, “It is for the platforms to consider the requests of the petitioner and remove such judgments or orders. MeitY neither plays a significant role nor its presence is required in the matter. The petitioner seeks removal of court order-related information available online. This Hon’ble Court may directly issue directions if any to the concerned respondents other than UOI.”
The petitioners, who were discharged by Patiala House Court in 2006, said in their plea, “This [information available online] acts as deterrent to the potential clients of the petitioners and is hampering the career growth and various opportunities of the petitioner. Besides, the petitioners have to face every day the social stigma on account of the perception of being involved in smuggling/ illegal activities.”
However, the Centre has also submitted that Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 was brought out to understand the need to protect citizens and their privacy, and that the proposed law contains provisions related to the doctrine of the right to be forgotten. The Bill is currently pending before Parliament. “The Indian courts also have accepted the doctrine of right to be forgotten as the essential part of right to privacy,” the government said in the reply while referring to the orders passed by the Orissa High Court and Karnataka High Court on the legal question.
It also said that the IT Act does provide for removal of “certain unlawful information” from an intermediary platform and issuance of directions for blocking public access of any information through any computer resource under certain conditions. However, it has clarified that the case before the High Court does not fall under those conditions.
“Section 69A primarily applies to ‘national security and public order related issues’ only. Thus the issues raised by the petitioners do not fall under any of the above specific circumstances of Section 694 of the IT Act 2000,” read the reply.
Though the Centre has said that the users of intermediary platforms are prohibited from publishing content that falls under the conditions mentioned in the latest IT Rules, it has stated that erasure of content under the doctrine of right to be forgotten does not fall under any of those conditions and thus Section 79 of the IT Rules also does not apply.
Since other parties have not filed their response in the case, the court has listed the matter before the Registrar on January 19 for completion of pleadings. The matter will be listed in court only after the pleadings are complete, as per the order passed by Justice Rekha Palli on December 13.
At least six petitions invoking right to be forgotten are pending before the Delhi High Court where the petitioners are seeking removal of their personal information which forms part of court orders or news reports.
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