The High Court of Madras noted Friday that an accused person who is acquitted from all the charges is entitled to have their name redacted from all court orders in relation to the offences they were accused of in order to uphold their fundamental right to privacy.
In the case before them, the petitioner had been acquitted of all criminal charges by the court and had pleaded to redact their name from all the court orders. The petitioner had also contended that even after his acquittal if there was a name present on every court order, which is available on search engines like google, those documents would be accessed by the public and they would still be directly identified as the accused.
The court ruled in its order that:
Today, the world is literally under the grips of social media. The background of a person is assessed by everyone by entering into the Google search and collecting the information. There is no assurance that the information that is secured from the Google is authentic. However, it creates the first impression and depending upon the data that is provided, it will make or mar the characteristics of a person in the eyes of the Society. Therefore, in today’s world everyone is trying to portray himself or herself in the best possible way, when it comes to social media. This is a new challenge faced by the World and already everyone is grappling to deal with this harbinger of further complexities awaiting mankind.
The court also referred to the Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 which when brought into force will effectively protect the data and privacy of a person and the Supreme Court of India’s judgment of Justice K.S. Puttasamy v Union of India which recognized the Right to Privacy as a fundamental right enshrined under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The court also noted a Delhi High Court judgment of 2021, which dealt with similar issues, and the court passed interim orders to redact the name of the petitioner.
The court ultimately recognized the Right to be Forgotten as a new right that should be included in the list of rights that are already available under Article 21 of the Constitution of India and listed the case for the final arguments.