The Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF)* has secured a legal intervention with consent from the Delhi HC for a case to determine whether India needs a “Right to be Forgotten” law. The court has subsequently issued a notice after IFF filed its arguments against the case; the intervention will be heard after IFF files its pleadings with the court. The next date of hearing in the case is on February 2, 2017.
The Delhi HC was scheduled hear the case of whether citizens in India could have the “Right To be Forgotten” on September 19th, 2016, according to a Times of India report. This case was filed against the Union of India by Laksh Vir Singh Yadav, and it carried an argument calling the High Court to create a legal “right to be forgotten” regime in India that would initially help “delist” publicly reported and circulated court judgments.
The case explained: During the case’s hearing in May, Delhi HC had ordered the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, Google Inc., Google India Pvt Ltd and IKanoon Software Development Pvt Ltd to respond to the case field by Yadav. According to this report, a copy of the judgment for a criminal case involving the petitioner’s wife and mother was uploaded online on IndianKanoon—a website which publishes court judgments. The petitioner himself wasn’t a party in the case, and since the details of the case were available online, it affected his employment opportunities, according to his statement. Subsequently, the petitioner wrote to IndianKanoon to be remove the entire copy and other details of the from its website, and to Google for removing the link to the judgment.
EU’s Right To be Forgotten law
The European Union passed the right to be forgotten law in May 2014 which allows people have web pages containing false, misleading, or outdated information about them removed from web searches. This was passed keeping in mind about the privacy of a citizen, when public search engine results in some instances could violate could violate privacy rights.
Following this order, Google reportedly received 282,580 right to be forgotten requests and the search engine has evaluated 1,027,495 URLs for removal, the company said in its transparency report in July 2015. The transparency report showed that Google removed 41.3% of the URLs it evaluated from its searches, which translates to around 359,803 URLs. This also raised some concerns in Europe that criminals and former felons might abuse the laws designed to protect privacy.
Elsewhere in India
Readers would remember the 2013 case when Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM) secured a court order to block 73 URLs permanently. At that time the block notice also covered the University Grants Commission, wherein a notice from the UGC pointing towards the unrecognized status of IIPM has been ordered to be blocked.
The order also allowed IIPM to block URLs of news portals like Outlook Magazine, Careers360, The Times of India, FirstPost, Rediff, The Indian Express, The Economic Times, MensXP, The Wall Street Journal, The Caravan Magazine. Following this, Mahesh Peri, Chairman of Careers360 took IIPM to the Superme Court, and after a long legal battle, the institute shut down most of its campuses and chose to withdraw its legal cases against Peri.
This was a brilliant example of how libel laws are abused to hide fraudulent practices. And more importantly such “right to be forgotten” orders could hurt online media outlets and even offline publications from recording and reporting cases, stories without hindrance, and subsequently protecting their freedom of speech and expression.
Disclaimer: The Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) is an organization born out of SaveTheInternet movement; Nikhil Pahwa, Editor of MediaNama is a member of both organizations.