Right to privacy: advocates assist HC on plea by acquitted man

Advocates assisted the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court in a case in which a man acquitted of all charges sought to redact his name from the court order to protect his Right to Privacy.

The deliberations went on for over five hours on Wednesday.

During the course of the previous hearing in the case, Justice N. Anand Venkatesh said he would hear members of the Bar and understand various ramifications before writing a detailed judgment in the case. High Court advocates from Madurai and Chennai assisted the court.

The court was hearing a petition filed by a man, who was acquitted of charges of rape and cheating. He said that though he was acquitted, whenever he looked for his name on search engines, the judgment and case details got reflected. It caused an impact on his reputation.

When the case was heard on Wednesday, counsel representing the petitioner said his client was acquitted of all charges. He was now married and had children. Hence, the name of his client should be concealed as it affected his reputation.

Advocates, who assisted the court on the issue, highlighted various rulings pronounced by courts across the globe. The Concept of Right to Erasure or Right to be Forgotten was discussed during the course of the hearing.

The judge asked whether common order could be passed with a direction to search engines to redact the names in cases of acquittal or whether it would be better to decide on a case-to-case basis. The court could be flooded with such petitions seeking to redact names, he said.

When the High Court Registry was asked its opinion, it said it would abide by the direction of the court. Some advocates said that to redact the names from the court copies was not needed as it was proof of acquittal in the case.

Justice Anand Venkatesh referred to the landmark Supreme Court judgment in Puttaswamy vs Union of India on the Right to Privacy and observed that there was a prima facie case made out by the petitioner and he was entitled to redacting his name from the judgment.

The judge, taking note of the fact that the Centre was finalising the Data Protection Bill, 2019, observed that when enacted, it would effectively protect the data and privacy of a person. It was informed to the court that the Right to be Forgotten was sought to be included in the list of rights.

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