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25th July 2022 (7 Topics)

SC recognizes ‘Right to be forgotten’, says it is a part of Privacy


Recognising “right to be forgotten” as a facet of right to privacy, the Supreme Court has ordered masking of personal details of parties to a case of sexual offence should be kept private as it can cause embarrassment and social stigma for women.


  • The court observed that the right to privacy of the woman is to be protected. On the other hand, online platforms questioned their right to publish.
  • As per the Supreme Court, Right to privacy includes the right to be forgotten and the right to be left alone.


The Right to Privacy

  • In Puttaswamy v. Union of India case, 2017, the Right to Privacy was declared a fundamental right by the Supreme Court.
  • Right to privacy is protected as an intrinsic part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21 and as a part of the freedoms guaranteed by Part III of the Constitution.

Right to be Forgotten (RTBF)

  • It is the right to have publicly available personal information removed from the internet, search, databases, websites or any other public platforms, once the personal information in question is no longer necessary, or relevant.
  • The RTBF gained importance after the 2014 decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) in the Google Spain case.
  • In the Indian context, the Supreme Court in Puttaswamy v. Union of India, 2017 noted that the RTBF was a part of the broader right of privacy.
  • The RTBF emerges from the right to privacy under Article 21 and partly from the right to dignity under Article 14.

About the Right to be Left Alone

  • In general terms, when the society will not interfere in the choices made by the person so long as they do not cause harm to others is ‘Right to be left alone’.

Some issues involved with this Judgement

  • Privacy vs. Information: It brings the person’s right to be left alone, derived from Article 21, directly in conflict with the rights of the media to report on issues, flowing from Article 19.
  • Enforceability against Private Individuals: This raises the question of whether fundamental rights can be enforced against the private individual, which is generally enforceable against the state.
  • Misleading Judgements: Courts in India have repeatedly either accepted or rejected the application of RTBF while completely ignoring the wider constitutional questions associated with it.

Government Steps to Protect Privacy

  • Personal Data Protection Bill 2019: To provide for protection of privacy of individuals relating to their Personal Data and to establish a Data Protection Authority of India for the said purposes and the matters concerning the personal data of an individual.
  • Framed on the recommendations of B N Srikrishna Committee (2018).
  • Information Technology Act, 2000: Provides for safeguard against certain breaches in relation to data from computer systems. It contains provisions to prevent the unauthorized use of computers, computer systems and data stored therein.

Verifying, please be patient.

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