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Right to be forgotten rejected by Japan’s Supreme Court - (03 Feb 2017)


The Supreme Court of Japan has rejected a man's demand that a Google web search showing up reports of his arrest for child prostitution be removed. The man was arrested more than five years ago for paying a female high school student to conduct an indecent act and was fined 500,000 yen.

The Supreme Court held that the deletion can be allowed only when the value of privacy protection significantly outweighs that of information disclosure. The five-Judge bench unanimously dismissed the said prayer and held that the criteria for deleting certain information from search results could be determined based on factors such as the degree of infringement on privacy, how broadly specific searches can be carried out and the industry in which the plaintiff is employed.

The Supreme Court finally concluded that the information in question could not be deleted because the arrest on child prostitution charges is subject to society’s strong disapproval and is a matter in the public’s interest. The plaintiff approached the Supreme Court against the rejection by the Tokyo High Court stating that the right to be forgotten is not a privilege stated in the law and its prerequisites or effects are not determined.

A similar issue has also come before the Courts in India regarding delinking of name from google search engine. The Delhi High Court while dealing with one such case held that there is no reason for creation of a separate legal framework under 'right to be forgotten'. The case was filed by a NRI before the Delhi High Court seeking relief that he be delinked from information regarding a criminal case involving his wife in which he was not a party and he further sought removal from the records of the trial court order which mentions him. However, rejecting the said plea the Delhi High Court observed that if something is posted on social media, it will never get deleted and that if the said plea was allowed, then all Courts may have to destroy their records in matrimonial disputes.

However, the Karnataka High Court in a similar issue upheld the Right to be Forgotten in order to protect the dignity of a woman and directed its Registry to make sure that any internet search made in public domain would not reflect woman's name. The High Court observed that this is in line with the trend in western countries of '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.

In the said case, the woman’s father had approached the Court seeking directions to cover the woman’s name in an earlier order passed by the High Court as his daughter feared grave repercussions if her name was associated with her earlier case and it would affect her relationship with her husband and also her reputation in the society.  The High Court also made it clear that as far as the High Court website is concerned, such a step need not be taken and if a certified copy of the order is applied for, the name of the petitioner’s daughter would certainly reflect in the copy of the order.

Infact, the ‘right to be forgotten’ has been in practice in Argentina and the European Union since 2006 and it permits the lawful removal of personal information of an individual if such prayer is made. In the fast changing scenario of internet world, the new rights are being created in order to protect the privacy of people.


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