Petition to remove name from judgment affecting reputation of person allowed, court recognises ‘Right to be Forgotten’

Karnataka High Court: In a judgment of its kind, the Karnataka High Court has stepped forward in evolution of rights available to individuals in India and added ‘right to be forgotten’ amongst the long list of rights. This right is in context of allowing an individual to request for removal of his/her personal information/data online.

In this case before the Court under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution, the petitioner had prayed for the removal of the name of his daughter from the digital records maintained by the High Court in a judgment passed by the Court to the extent that it is not visible for search engines like Google and Yahoo.

The name of petitioner’s daughter appeared in the cause list as well as in the judgment available. There was an apprehension that if a name-wise search is be carried on by anyone on search engines like Google or Yahoo, the judgment of the Court might reflect in the public domain along with her name which would be detrimental to her reputation in society and also, her relationship with her husband (the suit was against husband and they had later compromised).

The High Court observed that in line with the trend in Western countries of ‘right to be forgotten’ in sensitive cases involving women in general and highly sensitive cases involving rape or affecting the modesty and reputation of the person concerned, in this case as well, endeavour of the Registry must be to ensure that any internet search made in the public domain, ought not to reflect the petitioner’s daughter’s name in the cause title or body of the judgment. However, it refrained from making any changes in the High Court website and in a certified copy of the judgment; her name would be reflected in that. [Sri Vasunathan v. The Registrar General,  WP no. 62038/2016 decided on 23rd January, 2017]

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