The Madras High Court held that an acquitted accused’s plea of redacting his name from the judgement is valid under Article 21 of the Constitution, with reference to the Puttaswamy case judgement. However, for passing a more detailed order, the High Court first sought to hear the Respondent’s side, and therefore, postponed the final hearing to 28th July 2021.
Date of Judgement:
16th July 2021
Justice N. Anand Venkatesh
The petitioner was arrested in 2011 for being guilty under Sections 376 and 417 of IPC. But the High Court acquitted him of all the charges. However, it was submitted that the petitioner’s name reflects in the judgement, and whenever his name is searched on Google, he appears to be an accused. Therefore, the petitioner approached the High Court to redact his name from the judgement. The Madras High Court allowed the petition, and passed judgement in his favor.
The learned Judge accepted the plea of the petitioner and held his contentions valid. However, since this was the first time that such a question came up before the High Court, the Bench decided to hear the Counsels representing the Respondent, and adjourned the disposal of the case to 28. 07. 2021.
The Court relied on the judgement given in Puttaswamy case, and stated that the case of petitioner would also come under Right to Privacy. Therefore, he is entitled to redact his name from the judgement under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The Judge also adduced the Delhi High Court’s latest observation concerning right to be forgotten and right to privacy.
This is said to the first petition filed before the Madras High that sought redacting of the name of the accused, who was held innocent, from the judgement. Hence, Justice Anand Venkatesh decided to make a more detailed analysis of the case and adjourned the matter to a further date. However, the learned Judge validated the petitioner’s contentions as a prima facie case. Though, at present, there is no law specifically designed to protect the right to privacy, yet the Court ordered in favour of the petitioner relying upon the Puttaswamy case judgement. However, this is not the only provision that needs attention, but there are others too. For example, the consequences of redacting the acquitted accused’s name from the Judgement without proper hearing, is serious. Therefore, it is important for the Court to conduct a proper hearing.
However, what if the person so acquitted faces strong discrimination in the society due to his previously held false convictions? This was the major concern in the present case. As rightly pointed out by the learned Judge, information about a person secured from Google search creates, irrespective of its authenticity, a first impression and marks the character of the person concerned. Therefore, the Court was right inholding it important to protect that right of the petitioner.
There are laws enacted to protect the identity of certain victims, who, otherwise, might be subject of harassment. These include women and children. However, there are no such provisions available to a person who is accused of a false charge, and later released on careful examination of the case. These individuals fall in the clutches of the so-called “social media influencers”.Theonline entertaining platforms have created a strong mark on the world to the extent that people are trying to impress with their personality through such media. In such an age, it is important to protect your privacy relating to your person because a person with even a minor defect can easily fall prey to such harassments. Therefore, the Madras High Court’s ruling in the present case is a welcoming order. This will set a good precedent inthe future, and would serve as a relief to persons so acquitted.
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