In the case Google Spain SL, Google Inc v Agencia Espaola de Protección de Datos, Mario Costeja González, the Spanish judiciary ruled in favour of the right to be forgotten in 2014. (2014). The case revolved around a newspaper advertisement in La Vanguardia for Costeja's forced property sale in 1998, which was required to settle a social security debt. Costeja contacted the newspapers in 2009 after a search for his name brought up the old announcement. Costeja contacted Google Spain to request that the search result be removed.
The EU courts eventually ruled that Google had to remove the search results. Since then the right to be forgotten is debated and deliberated upon. It intertwines with various other issues of privacy and access to information which makes it all the more complex in the contemporary world which is charactered by Digital-lity.
Right to be forgotten' is a fairly new concept in India where an individual could seek to
remove or delete online posts which may contain an embarrassing picture, video or news articles mentioning them. This is often seen in the light of one‘s right to privacy.
The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), in an affidavit, stated,"The
right to privacy is a fundamental right and it also includes the right to be forgotten.” which was also hailed by the Supreme court as an integral part of Article 21 (right to life) of the constitution in Puttaswamy judgement 2017.
In the European Union, the right to be forgotten has been recognised as a statutory right under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and has been maintained by a number of courts in the United Kingdom and throughout Europe.
There is no law in India that expressly protects the right to be forgotten. The Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 did, however, recognise this right. It’s significance has been pronounced time and again by various judgments .Justice BN Srikrishna Committee’s draft Personal Data Protection Bill 2018, has introduced a new right called the right to be forgotten, which refers to the ability of an individual to limit, delink, delete, or correct the disclosure of the personal information on the internet that is misleading, embarrassing, or irrelevant.
The right to be forgotten is not unreservedly guaranteed. It is limited especially when colliding with the right of freedom of expression and information. Access to information is hampered when unchecked and absolute right to be forgotten is allowed. There’s a need to strike a balance hence a comprehensive law is needed.
In the right to privacy judgment, the Supreme Court had clarified that the recognition of this right “does not mean that all aspects of earlier existence are to be obliterated, as some may have a social ramification”. The apex court asserted that this right cannot be exercised where the information or data is necessary for:
exercising the right of freedom of expression and information;
compliance with legal obligations;
the performance of a task carried out in public interest, or public health;
archiving purposes in the public interest;
scientific or historical research purposes or statistical purposes; or
the establishment, exercise or defence of legal claims.
To implement the right to be forgotten, a major amendment to the Constitution must include privacy as a ground for reasonable restriction under Article 19 (2).
On the one hand, there must be a balance between the right to privacy and the protection of personal data (as covered by Article 21 of the Indian constitution), and the freedom of information of internet users (as covered by Article 19).
A comprehensive data protection law must address these issues while minimising the conflict between the two fundamental rights that are critical components of the Indian constitution's golden trinity (Articles 14, 19, and 21).