Tamil Nadu

Acquitted persons can redact name from ruling: HC

Coming across 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 Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has observed that there is a prima facie case made out by the petitioner and he is entitled to redacting his name from the judgment.

Referring to the landmark Supreme Court judgment in Puttaswamy vs Union of India on the right to privacy, Justice N. Anand Venkatesh observed that if the essence of the judgment was applied to the case at hand, even a person, accused of committing an offence and acquitted of all charges, would be entitled to redacting his name from the court order in order to protect his right of privacy.

“Today, the world is literally under the grips of social media. The background of a person is assessed by everyone by entering into Google search... There is no assurance that the information that is secured from Google is authentic. However, it creates the first impression, and depending upon the data that is provided, it will make or mar the character of a person in the eyes of society,” the judge said.

Further, he said, the legislature had so far enacted laws protecting the identity of victims who were women and children, and their names were not reflected in any court order. Therefore, their names got redacted automatically and no one would be able to identify the person who was a victim in a given case. This sufficiently protected the person and privacy of the person. This right had not been extended to an accused person who was acquitted of all charges. Despite acquittal, the name of the accused got reflected in the order.

The petitioner faced criminal proceedings for an offence under Sections 417 (cheating) and 376 (rape) of the Indian Penal Code. He was convicted and sentenced by the trial court. The petitioner appealed against this judgment at the High Court. The court acquitted the petitioner of all charges.

The court took note of the fact that the Centre was finalising the Data Protection Bill, 2019. When enacted, it would effectively protect the data and privacy of a person, the judge said. The court also took note of the fact that the Delhi High Court had passed an interim order in a similar issue, directing the websites concerned to redact the name of the petitioner.

The judge took cognisance of the fact that a new right, called right to be forgotten, was sought to be included in the list of rights under Article 21 of the Constitution. However, since the issue came up for the first time before this court, the judge said he would hear the members of the Bar and understand the ramifications before writing a detailed judgment. The case was adjourned till July 28.

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Printable version | Sep 21, 2021 11:45:55 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/acquitted-persons-can-redact-name-from-ruling-hc/article35375029.ece

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