Sunday, February 5, 2023

HC grants protection to Bengali actress from invasion of privacy

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The Delhi High Court has granted interim relief to a bengali actress aggrieved with explicit videos uploaded over net, while saying “right to privacy” includes “right to be forgotten” and “Right to be left alone”

A Single Judge bench of Delhi High Court presided by Justice Asha Menon, while hearing a plea filed by one Bengali Film Actress seeking interim protection against broadcasting of videos on the online platforms portraying her in a manner that infringes her privacy, observed that the “right to privacy” includes the right to be forgotten and the right to be left alone as “inherent aspects”.

The bench while directing the defendants to remove the videos or any part of the videos and to stop uploading them on their web portals including YouTube channels as well as any other websites created by Defendants in this case within 36 hours, observed that the plaintiff is entitled “to be left alone” and “to be forgotten”, she is entitled to protection from invasion of her privacy by strangers and anonymous callers on account of such publication/streaming/transmission of the suit videos by the defendants.

The Plaintiff’s case is that she is a well-known actor, particularly in Bengali films, and had been approached by Ram Gopal Verma Studios for filming a web-series. On the promise made to her of giving her the lead role in the web-series, the plaintiff was lured into participating in a demonstration video/trailer, consisting of explicit scenes of complete frontal nudity. However, the project fell through and the web-series was never produced.

Thereafter, the plaintiff came across the videos, enclosed with the suit which had been uploaded by the producer on his YouTube channel and website. The plaintiff requested the producer to remove the same and the producer removed the said videos from his YouTube channel and website. However, without the plaintiff’s consent, the 36 websites have uploaded the suit videos. It was further stated that some of them also superimposed objectionable and obscene commentaries on the suit videos. 

Counsel for the plaintiff stated that as per Information Technology Act, 2000, and IT Rules, 2021 the defendants were obligated to remove the suit videos. Specific reliance was placed on Rule 3(2)(b) of the IT Rules, which requires intermediaries website and internet service providers, search engines to, within 24 hours of receipt of the complaint made by any aggrieved person, take all reasonable and practicable measures to remove or disable access to such content which is hosted, stored, published or transmitted by it.

Counsel for the search engines, however, has opposed the grant of any interim relief, contending that the defendants were not aware of any agreement that permitted the broadcast of the suit videos and involving consideration. 

She further stated that since the plaintiff had consented to the filming of the scenes in question, it would be necessary to see whether the defendants were under any obligation to prevent its further publication. It was further submitted that Rule 3(2)(b) of the IT Rules had to be read in juxtaposition with Sections 67 and 67A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, which excluded material that was published in the interest of science, literature, art or learning or other objects of general concern i.e. since the suit videos related to a film and the videos were shot with the consent of the plaintiff, the case did not fall within the parameters of said Rule 3(2)(b). In any case, Rule 3(2)(b) requires a complaint from the victim or authorized representative, which was absent in the present case and therefore, Rule 3(2)(b) may not be strictly applicable.

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It was observed that the suit videos contain explicit material, as included under Rule 3(2) (b) of the IT Rules. Whether the suit is maintainable or not is a question that can wait for a later stage when pleadings are completed? 

The bench did not find favour with respect to the argument that suit videos had been shot with the consent of the plaintiff and therefore, she would not be entitled to any relief.

It was observed that the plaintiff may have participated in the filming of the scenes in question voluntarily and for consideration, she has clearly stated that she has not licensed any of the URLs/websites and the search engines to publish and transmit the same on YouTube. 

She has also clearly stated in the plaint that the producer had actually uploaded the suit videos on his YouTube channel and the website, but as soon as she objected to it, he had taken them down. Now, if others were circulating the same for obvious monetary and other prurient benefits, the plaintiff cannot be denied any relief during the pendency of the suit.

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