Referring to a Supreme Court judgment which held the Right of Privacy to be a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution, the Madras high court on Friday observed that even a person who was accused of committing an offence and who has been subsequently acquitted from all charges will be entitled for redacting his name from the order passed by the court in order to protect his Right of Privacy. Justice N Anand Venkatesh observed that the petitioner, who faced criminal proceedings for an offence under sections 417 (punishment for cheating) and 376 (punishment for rape) of the IPC, was convicted and sentenced by the trial court in 2011 and was acquitted of all charges by the high court in 2014.
The judge observed that the petitioner is now facing a very peculiar problem as his name gets reflected in the judgment rendered by this court as an accused though he was acquitted of all charges. Unfortunately, whoever types the name of the petitioner in Google search is able to access the judgment of this court.
The judge observed that while the existing laws protect the identity of woman and child victims and their names are not reflected in any order passed by a court, this right has not been extended to an accused man, who ultimately is acquitted from all charges. Therefore, for the first time, a person, who was acquitted of all charges has approached this court and sought for redacting his name from the judgment passed by this court.
The judge observed, “Today, the world is literally under the grips of social media. The background of a person is assessed by everyone by entering into Google search and collecting information. There is no assurance that the information that is secured from 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.
The judge further observed that it is also brought to the notice of the court that when a similar issue came up before the Delhi high court recently, interim orders were passed directing the concerned websites to redact the name of the petitioner therein. It is also informed to this court that a new right called the ‘right to be forgotten’ is sought to be included in the list of rights that are already available under Article 21 of the Constitution.
The judge observed that though the court finds that there is a prima facie case made out by the petitioner and he is entitled for redacting his name, this court wants to hear the counsel appearing for the respondents and also the members of the Bar and understand the various ramifications before writing a detailed judgment on this issue. Hence, the judge requested the assistance of the Bar members in this case and adjourned the case to July 28.
Read Order here