Right to be forgotten, left alone inherent aspects of privacy: HC

Published on Aug 26, 2021 11:28 PM IST

Justice Asha Menon, on Monday (August 23), made the assertions while accepting an unnamed actress’ plea for removal of her nude videos from Youtube and other web portals by the next date of hearing.

Delhi high court.
Delhi high court.
By, New Delhi

The Delhi high court has held that an individual has the “right to be forgotten” and “to be left alone” as facets of protection to their privacy. The move is significant because India does not currently have a Right to Be Forgotten (RTBF), which is part of the Personal Data Protection Bill being reviewed by a parliamentary panel. It is also significant because, in 2017, the Supreme Court held that the Right to Privacy is a fundamental right (as part of the Right to Life and Personal Liberty).

Justice Asha Menon, on Monday (August 23), made the assertions while accepting an unnamed actress’ plea for removal of her nude videos from Youtube and other web portals by the next date of hearing.

The court said that the “right to privacy” includes the right to be forgotten and the right to be left alone as “inherent aspects” when a person is being exhibited against his/her will.

“….the plaintiff is entitled “to be left alone” and “to be forgotten”, she is entitled to protection from invasion of her privacy by strangers and anonymous callers on account of such publication/streaming/transmission of the suit videos by the defendants,” the court said.

“….the right to privacy of the plaintiff is to be protected, especially when it is her that is being exhibited, and against her will,” it added.

According to the plea by the actress, who acts in Bengali films, she was approached by Ram Gopal Verma for a web series. Her audition included explicit scenes, including some involving complete frontal nudity. But the project fell through and the web-series was never produced.

The plaintiff claimed that in December, 2020, she came across the videos, which had been uploaded by the producer on his YouTube channel and website. He did remove them on her request, but by then, they were all over Youtube and other web portals.

“Some of them also superimposed objectionable and obscene commentaries. As a consequence of such action, the plaintiff was constantly subjected to anonymous calls and also subjected to insults. Thus, the videos have resulted in loss of reputation as also great prejudice to the plaintiff’s professional endeavours,” the plea contended.

In its order of Monday, the court said that the videos have a clear and immediate impact on the reputation of the person seen in the videos in a state of nudity. It added that the actress had not permitted even the producer of the videos to publish the videos on his YouTube channel, something which was respected by him.

“She has also clearly stated in the plaint that the producer had actually uploaded the suit videos on his YouTube channel and the website, but as soon as she objected to it, he had taken them down. Now, if others were circulating the same for obvious monetary and other prurient benefits, the plaintiff cannot be denied any relief during the pendency of the suit,” the court said.

It said that even if the actress voluntarily shot the scenes, she has clearly stated that she had not licensed the various portals and search engines to publish and transmit them on YouTube. It noted the rulings of the Madras and Orissa high court that currently, there is no statutory right to be forgotten.

The matter will be heard on September 22.

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