[Right to be forgotten] Whether de-indexing of publications can be done?: Delhi HC asks Google in Dr Ishwar Gilada’s plea

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Dr Gilada has sought removal of news and journal articles published on various online platforms pertaining to his wrongful arrest in an First Information Report (FIR) against him in the year 1999.

In a plea filed by Dr. Ishwar Gilada invoking “Right to be forgotten” to seek removal of news and journal articles published on various online platforms pertaining to his wrongful arrest in regard to a First Information Report (FIR) against him in the year 1999, the Delhi High Court on Wednesday asked Google to file reply as to whether de-indexing of publications can be done so that URLs don’t appear in search engine results.

During the hearing, Advocate Rohit Anil Rathi appearing for Gilada contended that although he was discharged in the FIR by the Sessions court, the news articles are still available in the public domain. Rathi relied on the Sessions Court order of August 4, 2009, and submitted, “I (Dr. Gilada) was discharged from the FIR, as there was no evidence of me engaging in any illegality”. He also relied on the order in Jorawer Singh Mundy v. Union of India & Ors, wherein Google was directed to remove a judgment from their search results.

Taking note of the submissions, the bench of Justice Prathiba M. Singh ordered, “Let an affidavit be filed by Google as to whether de-indexing of publications can be done so that URLs don’t appear in search engine’s results. Let the affidavit be filed within two weeks.”

Observing that prima facie all the publications had been served notice by the petitioner for impleadment, the court issued notice to them, and also directed the Centre and other respondents to file their reply to the plea. Accordingly, the court listed the matter for further hearing on May 18.

The petitioner, Dr. Ishwar Gilada is the first person to raise the alarm against AIDS in India (1985) and to start India’s first AIDS Clinic (1986) at the government-run JJ Hospital, Mumbai. He is a globally acclaimed HIV expert, credited with bringing India to the AIDS control map of the world. He is the President, of the AIDS Society of India (ASI) Secretary General, of Peoples Health Organization-India (PHO), and Governing Council member of the International AIDS Society.

The doctor was allegedly involved in illegally procuring medicines from abroad & administering the same to HIV patients in India. It was further alleged that he along with others mishandled HIV patients, on account of which one patient allegedly passed away.

The petitioner through Advocate Rohit Anil Rathi stated that the said articles are available both through the online platform of the publishers, namely British Medical Journal, the Lancet, NCBI, and Indian Paediatrics, and can also be searched on Google. His case is that he has already been discharged in the FIR that was registered against him in 1999.

The petitioner in his plea relied on the trial court’s order of August 4, which stated that “there is no evidence whatsoever of the petitioner having engaged in any illegality”.

Notably, Justice Singh on February 17 had noted that Senior Advocate Arvind Nigam appearing for Google LLC would place on record other orders related to the case.

Accordingly, the single-judge bench had said, “In the meantime, considering that the publications, which are online, let an email communication be given by the Petitioner to the publications, which are online, along with the copy of this petition as an intimation to the said publishers about the filing of the present petition.”

“If they choose to join the proceedings on the next date of hearing, the following publications are allowed to do so; i. British Medical Journal, ii. The Lancet, iii. NCBI, and iv. Indian Paediatrics”, the court had added.

Right to be forgotten

It reflects the claim of an individual to have certain data deleted so that third persons can no longer trace them. The right enables a person to silence the past events of his life that are no longer occurring. Thus, the Right to be Forgotten entitles individuals to have information, videos, or photographs about themselves deleted from certain internet records so that search engines cannot find them.

Case Title: Dr. Ishwarprasad Gilada v. Union of India & Ors.

Statue: The Constitution of India