European Union: Will Judiciary Recognize The Emerging "Right To Be Forgotten"

Last Updated: 20 March 2017
Article by Vikrant Rana and Akshay Gupta

The internet has a continual memory that stores everything which was ever uploaded on it. The advanced technology and new search algorithms generates information in seconds that was ever uploaded and such information can be shared by Whatsapp, Email, Facebook, etc. by just clicking on the share button. Wherefore, to protect one's privacy a need has been felt that any information which is no longer relevant should be removed from the public domain. The Right to be Forgotten allows an individual to request for the removal of his/her personal information from an online database after a period of time or such information is no longer relevant. The issue of Right to be Forgotten revolves around the question that whether an individual should be granted a right to request for deletion of data generated from the list of results promoted by search engines, websites, social networks, blogs, etc.

EU Data Protection Law

The Right to be Forgotten is a remedy available under data protection law, enabling a data subject to obtain from the data controller the erasure of links to data which the data subject regards as prejudicial to him or her. It is a right which, in the European Union, derives from the 1995 Data Protection Directive. In the case of Google Spain and Google Inc. v. Agencia Española De Protección De Datos and Mario Costeja González the Court of Justice of the European Union on May 3, 2014 recognized the Right to be Forgotten and explained its scope. In 2010, a Spanish citizen Mario Costeja González lodged a complaint against a Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia Editions SL, Agencia Española De Protección De Datos and against Google Spain and Google Inc. His grievance was that an auction notice of his home which was repossessed later was still on Google's search results, infringing his right to privacy. He argued that, as the proceedings concerning him had been fully resolved for a number of years, the links available on Google regarding this were now totally irrelevant. Mario Costeja González requested the newspaper to remove the information or change the pages so that his personal information no longer appeared. He also requested Google Spain to remove his personal data, so that it no longer appeared in the Google search results.

The Court held that an internet search engine operator is responsible for processing data which appears on the web pages published by third parties. For example if a search made on a person's name, internet search engine operator will generate a list of results displaying links to web page which contains information on the person in question. If a person is aggrieved by such information then they may directly approach the operator and, where the operator does not grant his request, bring the matter before the competent authorities in order to obtain, under certain conditions, the removal of that link from the list of results.

Right to Privacy in India

The Constitution of India does not expressly recognize the Right to Privacy. However, this Right to Privacy has been culled by the Supreme Court from Article 21. For the first time in India the Supreme Court in the case of Kharak Singh v. State of U.P.,1 held that Right to Life includes personal liberty and thus, right to privacy.

In the case of R. Rajagopal v. State of T.N.,2 the Supreme Court held that the right to privacy was implicit in the right to life and liberty guaranteed to the citizens of this country by Article 21. It was a "right to be let alone". A citizen has a right to safeguard the privacy of his own, his family, marriage, procreation, motherhood, child-bearing and education among other matters. None can publish anything concerning the above matters without his consent whether truthful or otherwise and whether laudatory or critical. If he does so, he would be violating the right to privacy of the person concerned and would be liable in an action for damages. Position may, however, be different, if a person voluntarily thrusts himself into controversy or voluntarily invites or raises a controversy. However, the Court held that the above rule was subject to an exception that a publication cannot be objected if such publication is based upon public records including Court records.

In India, the "Right to be Forgotten" has travelled on different paths. While the Kerala High Court and Karnataka High Court have ruled in favor of Right to be Forgotten, the Gujarat High Court has ruled against it.

Judgement of the Gujarat High Court in Dharamraj Bhanushankar Dave v. State of Gujarat & Ors.3

The Petitioner sought remedy under Article 226 of the Constitution of India against the publication of a judgment by Indian Kanoon and same was shown by Google in its search results, which was a 'non-reportable judgment'. The Petitioner claimed that such an act violated Article 21.

The Petitioner contended that Google and Indian Kanoon had no authority to publish a nonreportable judgment and it had adversely affected his personal and professional life. He also contended that because of such publication, the judgment was freely available on the internet and the same was against the classification made by the Court.

The Court observed that "The judgment in appeal is part of the proceedings and the said judgment is pronounced by this Court and therefore, merely publishing on the website would not amount to same being reported as the word "reportable" used for judgment is in relation to it being reported in law reporter."

In the Court's opinion, there was no legal basis to order such removal and the presence of the judgment on the Internet did not violate the petitioner's rights under Article 21.

Judgement of the Karnataka High Court in Sri Vasunathan v The Registrar General4

The Petitioner was father who had moved a Writ Petition before the Court seeking orders to block his daughter's name in an earlier order passed by the Court, as his daughter feared the consequences of her name associated with this earlier matter and if a name –wise search was carried on by any person through any of the internet service provider such as Google and Yahoo, this order may reflect in the results of such a search. The Petitioners daughter was afraid that this would affect her relationship with her husband and her reputation and good-will in society.

The Court Observed that "This would be in line with the trend in western countries of the '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."

The Court directed its registry that it should endeavour to ensure that any internet search made in the public domain ought not to reflect the petitioner's daughter's name in the case-title of the order or in the body of the order in the criminal petition.

Judgement of the Kerala High Court in the Civil Writ Petition No. 9478 of 2016

The Kerala High Court in its order dated February 23, 2017 has also ruled in favor of the Right to be Forgotten. In the present case, a writ petition was filed before the Kerala High Court by the petitioner for protection of their Right to Privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution. The petitioner was seeking directions from the Court to ensure that their identity would remain protected and the materials disclosing their identity on IndianKanoon, Yahoo and Google would be removed or hidden appropriately. Due to the seriousness of the issue and failure of IndianKanoon to appear before the Court despite being served with a notice, the Court issued an interim order in favor of the petitioner directing IndianKanoon to remove the name of the petitioner from orders posted on its website until further orders were issued.

Petition before the Delhi High Court

A similar petition is pending before the Delhi High Court in respect of the same matter in the case of Laksh Vir Singh Yadav v Union of India and Ors.5. In this case the Petitioner has requested for the removal of a judgment involving his mother and wife from an online case database. The Petitioner in his plea contended that anyone who searches his name on Google will find the aforesaid judgment (of the criminal case) on the second number of search result and consequently giving the impression to everyone that he was involved in some sort of criminal proceeding in India.6

The next date of hearing is April 24, 2017. It will be interesting to see whether right to privacy of an individual will be protected against the right of public to access information. This judgement by the Delhi High Court will unfold a lot of questions in regard to the new evolving principle of Right to be Forgotten.


To sum up, there is no provision with regard to the Right to be Forgotten in India. The Karnataka High Court, Kerala High Court and Gujarat High Court delivered judgments on separate pleas to have particular judgments removed from online portal and search engine results. The Gujarat High Court dismissed the petition, stating that there was no legal basis to seek removal of a judgment from the Internet, while on the other hand the Karnataka High Court ordered the registry to ensure that any internet search made in the public domain ought not to reflect the petitioner's daughter's name and the Kerala High Court ordered the removal of the Petitioner's name from the one of the Respondents' website. After these contradictory judgements, it will be interesting to see how the right to be forgotten will be molded by the Delhi High Court. It is pertinent to note that the current petitions before the Court are restricted to cases reported on online databases. It will be interesting to see how the emerging concept will continue to develop in the future.


1. (1964) 1 SCR 332

2. (1994) 6 SCC 632

3. SCA No. 1854 of 2015

4. W.P. No. 62038/2016

5. (WP(C)1021/2016)


The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Vikrant Rana
In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions