Content Regulation / Censorship, Privacy, Data Protection and Retention, Defamation / Reputation
Hegglin v. Google
Closed Mixed Outcome
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The High Court of Karnataka, Bangalore, India ruled that the Court Registry should redact the name of a wife from the order confirming the withdrawal of criminal charges she had laid against her husband. After a wife had initiated various legal proceedings against her husband the two agreed on a compromise and obtained a court order quashing all charges. However, the wife’s name was prominent on that order and the online version of the court order would appear when her name was searched on internet search engines, which could jeopardize her relationship with her husband and her reputation. The High Court acknowledged the “right to be forgotten”, particularly in cases involving sensitive issues of modesty and reputation, and ordered that the wife’s name be redacted from all online versions of the order.
In 2014, a wife in Bangalore, India, filed criminal charges against her husband, including for various fraud offences, kidnapping/inducing a woman to compel her marriage, and threatening death for extortion under the Indian Penal Code, 1860. She had also brought a civil suit seeking to annul her marriage. The following year, the wife and husband entered into a compromise and she agreed to withdraw her criminal complaint, and the husband filed a petition before the High Court of Karnataka to quash the criminal proceedings. On June 15, 2015, the High Court quashed the proceedings, and the cause-title and body of the order displayed the wife’s name, as per procedure.
In 2017, the wife’s father filed a petition on his daughter’s behalf, requesting that the High Court Registry mask her name in the cause-title and body of the June 2015 order.
The judgment was delivered by Justice Byrareddy, as a single-bench judgment of the High Court of Karnataka at Bangalore. The primary question before the Court was whether it should order the Court Registry to mask the wife’s name in the court’s digital records relating of the June 2015 order.
The wife’s father argued that his daughter believed that the order would appear in search results of an internet search on her name, which would “have repercussions even affecting the relationship with her husband and her reputation that she has in society” [p. 5-6]. He submitted that his daughter’s name should be removed from the cause-title of the order as well as any other areas in the body of the order that it may appear. He clarified that the request was limited to the digital records on the High Court’s website, and that he understood that if a copy of the order was applied for directly to the Court Registry, his daughter’s name would be reflected as per procedure.
The Court held that it “should be the endeavour of the [High Court] Registry to ensure that any internet search made in the public domain, ought not to reflect the petitioner’s daughter’s name in the causetitle of the order or in the body of the order of this court” [p. 6-7]. The Court noted that this “would be in line with the trend” of the recognition of the Right to be Forgotten in cases involving “women in general and highly sensitive cases involving rape or affecting the modesty and reputation” [p. 5].
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
Although the Court recognized the right to be forgotten and so balanced the rights to access to information and privacy, the Court based its decision on outdated notions of women’s modesty instead of taking the opportunity to engage with the right to be forgotten as part of the constitutionally-protected right to privacy.
Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.
Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.
As a judgment of the High Court of Karnataka, the judgment is binding on all authorities and lower courts in Karnataka.
Let us know if you notice errors or if the case analysis needs revision.