Karnataka HC on the “Right to be Forgotten”

In Sri Vasunathan vs The Registrar,[General Writ Petition No. 62038 of 2016] the Karnataka HC in it’s judgement and order has dealt with the “right to be forgotten” on the internet in India. This post contains a background and analysis of the case.

Facts

The daughter of the petitioner had filed a complaint, Crime No. 376/2014, resulting in an FIR under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, resulting in a subsequent charge-sheet was filed.

In the meantime, the daughter of the petitioner also filed a civil suit O.S. No. 168/2014 seeking a declaration that there was no marriage between her and the defendant in the said suit and subsequent annulment of marriage certificate issued was prayed for.

A compromise was reached amongst both parties. One of the conditions in the compromise reached were that the daughter of the plaintiff had to take all necessary steps to withdraw and terminate the criminal complaint.

Pursuant to the compromise, a petition was filed in the criminal case seeking quashing of the proceedings under section 482 of the CRPC. In the Sec. 482 petition the daughter of the petitioner was listed as Respondent No. 2 and her name and address were mentioned as required procedurally. The proceedings, as requested were quashed thereafter.

It was the apprehension of the daughter of the petitioner that if a name-wise search on Yahoo or Google were to be conducted, the order would reflect in the results and the same would affect her relationship with her husband and would also result in degradation of her image in society.

Issues

She asked the court to direct the Registry to mask her name completely from the order of the petition filed by her husband and let it remain only in the cause-title before releasing it to any third party beneficiary.

Decision and Reasoning

The High Court made it clear that the website of the High Court would still display the certified copy and the same would not be subject to any modification and thus, the name would be reflected in the order.

However, it stated that it should be the endeavor of the Registry 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 the body of the order of petition Crl.P.No.1599/2015. There is little reasoning which is contained in the order for this except a,, “general trend in western countries”.

The court further stated that this approach was in line with the Western countries where “Right to be forgotten” was recognized especially concerning sensitive issues such as rape, modesty, reputation etc. Though this is not indicated substantially by way of reasoning, this is presumed on the basis of statutory protections which are present in law.

The issue of right to be forgotten has become contentious globally. News reports indicate that the Supreme Court of Japan this week reversed a lower finding. It ruled there is no right to be forgotten in Japan despite there being an underlying data protection law (unlike India).