interview | ashutosh kaushik Delhi

A reality show star's fight to be forgotten

Ashutosh Kaushik, MTV Roadies in New Delhi on Tuesday .   | Photo Credit: SANDEEP SAXENA

‘Right to be forgotten’ is a fairly new concept in India and the courts have so far given varying opinions on a case-by-case basis. The Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018, refers to it as the ability of individuals to limit, delete, or correct disclosure of personal information on the Internet that is misleading, embarrassing, irrelevant, or anachronistic. The Delhi High Court is currently hearing two pleas that deal with this provision, and experts are watching closely for its implications on the law. Reality show celebrity Ashutosh Kaushik speaks to The Hindu on his petition to remove certain online articles and videos relating to his arrest in a drunk driving incident in 2009. Excerpts:

What triggered you to approach the Delhi High Court?

The idea was borne out of necessity. My family, including my mother and sisters, would always question me as to why these videos and stories are not being taken down. My initial response used to be that the news portals and the websites are merely showing what I have done. Beyond that, I have been persistently troubled by these videos and stories as they keep popping up. Whenever my family or friends get a hold of these videos or articles, they forward it to me and ask: “Now what have you done?”. I have to tell them each time to check the date on the videos and articles. The incident happened over a decade ago. Also, I am currently pursuing my LLB and I came to know about the Right to be Forgotten and my Right to Privacy. With this awareness, I contacted my lawyer and decided to move the court.

Why do you want to take these videos and articles down?

My issue with the videos being online is that If I have faced punishment for these offences, why am I still bearing the brunt of it.? I had earlier requested the news portals and channels to take down the stories since they obviously have made their earning off it. But the news channels and portals declined and have continued to run the reports till now. I have faced commercial damages due to these reports and videos. I have even stopped getting work in the entertainment industry. When the court has given me punishment, why should I continue to face ‘digital punishment’? My point is, if you want a record of the incident, keep it in a police file. Why put it up online for everyone to see in perpetuity?

What happened in the drunk driving case?

The day after the incident, I went to the local court where I pleaded guilty. The court sentenced me to one-day imprisonment. Now that I have faced the punishment, why am I being hounded till now? The court should specify penal and digital consequences.

Why do LLB now?

We did not have a father while growing up. I had to drop my education to help my sisters complete theirs. Today, my sisters are established and I am now completing my education. I want to do a PhD also.

You won MTV Hero Honda Roadies 5.0 in 2007 and the second season of Big Boss in 2008, but your public appearances have dwindled in recent years. Why?

Azadi ki value usi ko pata hai jisne ghulami dekhi ho (the value of freedom is known only to those who have experienced slavery). If I had struggled in Mumbai, I would have known how to appreciate it. I was not diplomatic when talking to people in the industry. I was blunt. I had no knowledge of how to speak and what to speak to people in the industry in Mumbai. My point is, if you are getting things in time, or even late then its good. But, you should not get anything before your time, or else, it will be laid to waste. Its been 10 years since the incident happened. It’s a long time. People change. I was in my late 20s then. But, the media houses have kept the videos and articles alive.

Being a celebrity and a public figure, can you really ask the media to be selective in portraying you?

I am fighting for my rights. No news channel or media will ever report that I go to school and colleges to educate students against indulging in bad habits such as drunk driving. I currently run a YouTube channel under my name and all the proceeds from it go to charity. I distribute blankets to the poor. I had requested the channels to remove the videos and articles about the incident as my marriage is on the cards. What will the people from the girl’s side say after seeing these videos? But my requests has fallen on deaf ears.

Once on the Internet, always on the Internet. Even if you manage to get an order from the court to remove the links from news portals, How will you prevent individuals from reposting the videos and articles on social media sites?

My priority is to remove the videos and articles from mainstream news channels and big media houses. For any individual, I can only request them. There should be specific provisions in law that a person found guilty of a crime will face physical as well as digital punishment.

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Printable version | Oct 27, 2021 5:00:36 PM |

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