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
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
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
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

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 or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq 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 of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

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