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Right To Be Forgotten – UPSC

Right To Be Forgotten

The Indian government told the Delhi High Court that the idea of the Right to Be Forgotten is developing in India within the framework of the Right to Privacy. According to a Supreme Court ruling, the Right to Privacy encompasses both the Right to Be Forgotten (RTBF) and the right to be left alone.

Key Points

Privacy as a Fundamental Right:

  • In 2017, the Supreme Court in the Puttaswamy v. Union of India case declared the Right to Privacy a fundamental right.
  • This right is protected as an integral part of the right to life and personal liberty under Article 21, and it is also safeguarded in Part III of the Constitution.

Right to be Forgotten (RTBF):

  • RTBF is the right to remove personal information from the internet or other public platforms once it becomes irrelevant or unnecessary.
  • The significance of RTBF increased after the 2014 decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union in the Google Spain case.
  • In India, the Supreme Court, in the Puttaswamy case, acknowledged that RTBF is a component of the broader right to privacy, deriving partly from Article 21 and the right to dignity.

Right to be Left Alone:

  • It doesn’t imply withdrawing from society but rather expecting that society will not interfere in one’s choices unless they harm others.
  • This right emphasizes that individuals should have the freedom to make personal choices without unnecessary intrusion from society.


Balancing Privacy and Information:

  • Sometimes, the right to be forgotten (RTBF) clashes with other rights like freedom of expression.
  • Imagine someone wanting to hide their criminal records from Google searches, conflicting with the media’s right to report on issues.

Enforcing Rights Against Individuals:

  • Normally, RTBF is claimed against private parties like media or news websites.
  • The question arises: Can fundamental rights be enforced against private individuals, not just the state?
  • Only specific articles (15(2), 17, and 23) provide protection against private acts violating the Constitution.

Ambiguity in Judgements:

  • Without a clear data protection law for RTBF, recent court decisions in India have been inconsistent.
  • High courts have either accepted or rejected RTBF applications, often overlooking broader constitutional questions.

Government Steps to Protect Privacy

Personal Data Protection Bill 2019:

  • The bill aims to safeguard the privacy of individuals concerning their personal data. It also proposes the establishment of a Data Protection Authority of India to oversee matters related to personal data.
  • The bill is based on the recommendations of the B N Srikrishna Committee in 2018, emphasizing the need to protect individuals’ privacy in the digital age.

Information Technology Act, 2000:

  • This act is designed to provide protection against certain breaches related to data from computer systems. It includes provisions to prevent unauthorized use of computers, computer systems, and the data stored within them.
  • The act addresses issues surrounding the misuse of computers and data, offering a legal framework to prevent unauthorized access and use of electronic information.

Way Forward

  • It’s important for both Parliament and the Supreme Court to really look into the Right to Be Forgotten (RTBF) issue. They need to figure out a fair way to balance people’s right to privacy with the freedom of expression.
  • Nowadays, data is like gold, and we can’t just leave it without any rules. India needs strong laws to protect our data in this digital age.
  • So, the government should speed things up and pass the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019. This will make sure our personal information is safe and sound.

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