The celebrity ‘Drug on Cruise case’ of  2021 and the ‘may be considered’ Right to be Forgotten

Prof(Dr).Debarati Halder*

On October 3, 2021, India woke up to the big news of celebrity drug on cruise case where the key accused was a 23 year old young adult man, Aryan Khan. The news media revealed that Khan, the elder son of Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan, had been arrested by the officer of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), Mumbai and was charged for knowingly consumption, sale and purchase   of narcotic substances under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act. The family of the arrested immediately tried for bail, but was not successful. The legal technicalities revealed that Khan had to approach the special NDPS court for bail once the judicial magistrate who was hearing the matter of arrest of Khan rejected the bail plea on ground of non-maintainability of such bail matter in courts other than NDPS courts. Khan was first put in the custody of  NCB for a brief period after which he was sent for judicial custody, which in plain words may mean that he was put up in a regular jail meant for accused who has not yet been convicted by the courts. The NCB reportedly argued against his bail stating that being the child of a celebrity father, Khan may have every opportunity to access to narcotics, he may be able to get involved in the selling and purchasing of the prohibited substances.  Later when the matter went to Bombay High Court for appeal against the rejection to bail, the WhatsApp chats between Khan and his friends were also pulled in as the defense in the High Court wanted to establish that Khan was already discussing about the selling, purchasing, consuming etc. of drugs over WhatsApp chats. The Bombay High court however, granted him bail and he was released from judicial custody after two days of the passing of the order.

My concern here centers around the concept of privacy and confidentiality of the accused which flows from the Universal Declaration of Basic Principles of Human Rights,[1] adopted by the Indian Constitution[2] and which to a certain extent, reflects in the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 especially with the courts increasingly accepting the Right to be forgotten jurisprudence. We must not forget that an accused is innocent until proven guilty. Given the case of Khan, it may be seen that his arrest and then judicial custody in the jail in Mumbai became an open ‘document’ which has been consumed by public at large. Narcotic Drugs and psychotropic substance abuse cases may not be the regular criminal cases involving the offender and the victims unless otherwise proven where the substance consumer had been forced to consume such substances following several illegal mechanisms, or where the accused is found to have been involved in the drug peddling racket. Such cases may typically fall within the meaning of victimless crimes where ‘offenders’ themselves turn into victims of substance abuse. Such cases must be dealt with extreme care by the judiciary and the correctional administration where the offender-victim may need rehabilitation.  Such cases however are extremely complicated as it may often be seen that substance abusers may be involved in the drug peddling rackets too. But the central point here is, unless proven, the accused can not be considered as guilty even in such cases as well. Then why such cases of celebrity accused persons attract so much public attention and why certain media channels make such news items as matters of national level concern? One of the reasons for this in my understanding is, the inquisitiveness of the public regarding the life style of the ‘celebrity accused’. Several news channels shared the contents of arrest memo of Aryan Khan which in reality should not be shared unless it is considered as a public document by the courts. Some other news media channels shared stories as what should be Khan’s daily food routine as a detainee in the jail, [3] what did Khan read inside his prison cell, [4] etc.

We must understand that while the courts may make certain orders publicly accessible for ensuring transparency of the judicial proceedings, the same cannot and should not be misused for media trials.[5] The Bombay High court order for releasing accused Aryan Khan on bail is available on several legal news platforms.[6] But Khan’s Day to day to affair in the jail is a matter which must have been given a confidentiality cloak. Right to be forgotten is a protection against further victimization of the accused by the society at large and is an integral part of reformative justice jurisprudence whereby the accused may be given a new opportunity to join the mainstream society as a reformed and positive individual.  The case is not closed now and Khan is neither convicted, nor acquitted of the case. But when the prosecution may establish that he is guilty, and in such case once he finishes his sentence period, or when the defense may establish that he is not guilty, Khan may consider to request the court to exercise his Right to be Forgotten and the court may then consider directing different digital platforms to restrict public access to the bail orders and remove the contents about him which shows him as an accused from the digital platforms of different news media channels. Interestingly, Part III of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021(IT Act Rules, 2021) may offer some solace if Khan or any other person who may establish a proper locus standi, wishes to approach the court or the news media channels directly for applying Right to be Forgotten or for removing contents that may be misleading, damaging the reputation of the accused. Rule 8 of the IT Act, Rules, 2021 extends the application of the Rules to the publishers of the news and current affairs contents and of online curated contents and the application of these Rules for Part III is administered by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. The Rule suggests that any one who is aggrieved by any news content may directly contact the grievance mechanism cell established by the publisher of the news media portal/channel/paper. If the problem is not solved, then the aggrieved can reach out to the next level, i.e., self-regulatory body.[7] If the aggrieved is not satisfied with the decision of the self-regulatory body, then he/she can further approach interdepartmental committee which is considered as level III grievance redressal mechanism for the purpose of maintaining code of ethics, and which works for the oversight mechanism by the central government. In short, this Rule makes it easier for the aggrieved party   to approach the concerned authorities for removing or blocking an unwanted content which may be misleading, defamatory, damaging the reputation of some one etc. One may not approach the higher courts through Writ Petitions.  We must acknowledge that many female professionals including actors, models, athletes, journalists, writers and YouTubers etc., are constantly targeted in several news media channels for their daily activities , expression of thoughts or even cases of victimization of different sorts. If such women are held as accused or had become victims, they may also consider for applying for their Right to be Forgotten, they may also approach the concerned forums under the above mentioned Rule to remove unwanted news contents which are no longer relevant   But it must also be seen that application of Part III of the IT Act, Rules, 2021 should not pose a bar against judicial transparency and freedom of speech and expression.

 We must not forget that Right to be Forgotten is an extension of the right to privacy which every accused must have. Given the fact that the news stories about the accused in the Cruise drug case may remain floated on the information super highway for a long time, it is expected that the news media channels and their publishers may consider restricting further infringement of privacy of the accused.

Please note: The views expressed in the writeup are that of the author’s.  Please cite it as “Halder Debarati (2021) The celebrity ‘Drug on Cruise case’ of  2021 and the ‘may be considered’ Right to be Forgotten. Published in on 06.11.2021”

*Prof(Dr) Debarati Halder, Ph.D(Law) is working as Professor of Law, Parul Institute of Law, Parul University, Vadodara, Gujarat. She is also the founder of Centre for Cyber Victim Counselling ( . She can be reached

[1] See Articles 11 (right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty), and 12 right to privacy against arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, attack upon his honour and reputation etc) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

[2] Even though the scope of Article 21 of the constitution of India has been expanded to include right to privacy due to the landmark cases including Justice Puttaswamy vs Union of India & others, Writ Petition (Civil) No 494 of 2012; (2017) 10 SCC 1; AIR 2017 SC 4161

[3] Outlook Web Bureau (2021). Lunch At 11 Am, Dinner At 6 Pm: Aryan Khan’s Daily Routine In Arthur Road Jail. Published in on 16-10-2021. Accessed on 02.11.2021

[4] Livemint (2021). Aryan Khan reading religious books in Jail, say authorities. Published in on 24-10-2021. Accessed on 02.11.2021

[5] For more understanding, see The Chief Election Commissioner of India v M.R. Vijayabhaskar & Ors , Civil Appeal No. 1767 of 2021 (Arising out of SLP (C) No. 6731 of 2021). Available @ Accessed on 02.11.2021


[7] Rule 12(2) of the IT Act Rules, 2021 states as follows:

(2) The self-regulatory body referred to in sub-rule (1) shall be headed by a retired judge of the

Supreme Court, a High Court, or an independent eminent person from the field of media, broadcasting,

entertainment, child rights, human rights or such other relevant field, and have other members, not

exceeding six, being experts from the field of media, broadcasting, entertainment, child rights, human

rights and such other relevant fields.

(3) The self-regulating body

Gender and Internet : Web magazine for Cyber law for women News update for September 20- October 24, 2021

Image courtesy : Internet

Facebook targeted for not sharing expected transparency reports on policy measures for cyber safety of users inlcuding women and children

The first female governor of NewYork signs Bills into legislation for preventing cyber bullying and measuring impact of cyber bullying.

Japanese man uses AI to create deep fake contents by reconstructing blurred parts especially private parts and sells the contents online. Japanese police claims to have arrested and charged the man for violating obscenity laws.

Edinburgh court takes up matter for trial of man accused of terror offences who is found to have stored images of sexual activities with mutilated bodies of women

Frederick county grand jury in the US six men including one who is accused of raping woman, possessing child pornography materials.

Smart toilets pose more threat to privacy for men and women now.

Gender and Internet : Web magazine for Cyber law for women News update for August 26-September 19, 2021

Image courtesy: Debarati Halder

Hidden research shows teen girls may feel worse for bodyshaming if they use Instagram

Telegram is rapidly becoming a hub of criminals for using it for dark web

Woman along with two men charged by Miami Court for identity theft of several deceased victims for the purpose of creating credit cards and illegal transaction of money with the help of personal data of the victims.

Police investigation reveals that deepfake technology is being used for sextortion cases in India, which leads to further complications in justice delivery for the victims.

Gender and Internet : Web magazine for Cyber law for women News update for August 2-August 25, 2021

Image courtesy : Debarati Halder

Former editor of New York observer newspaper Kenneth Kurson faces charges by New York Prosecutors on the issue of installing spyware on the computer of his ‘then-wife’ for cyber stalking her.

Perpetrators gets arrested for morphing pictures to earn money

Penang police in Malayasia receives reports of job scam, majority of the victims are women.

Pasay City office of the prosecutor in Philippines suggests for bringing charges against former US diplomat for violating laws for protecting children from sexual offences under Republic Act (RA) 7610 or the “Special Protection of Children against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination” and RA 9775 or the “Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009.
The victim was made to involve in sexual activities and she was filmed.

Cyber cons are targeting police officers, judicial officers and educated people including women for financial frauds

Small time actress Meera Mithun gets arrested for her communal hate speech over cyber platforms in south India

Gender and Internet : Web magazine for Cyber law for women News update for July 27-Auguat 1, 2021

Image credit : Internet

Online food seller goes live to show the altercations between woman customer and the former as the customer refused to pay the balance because she did not like it. The customer knocks the door of the courts for filing case against the food seller as the latter’s act has allegedly infringed her privacy by showing her home and her mother.

Cyber security experts raise concern over growing voice cloning industry which is victimising all including women.

UK law Commission recommends banning of cyber flashing and abusive online messages and prosecuting the offenders on the basis of probability of harm on the victims.

Raj Kundra’s arrest related to his alleged connection with illegal porn industry reveals victimsiation of women in the showbiz

IT Expert turns into cyber cheat and dupes many including women who he met over social media platforms.

Gender and Internet : Web magazine for Cyber law for women News update for July 1-July 26, 2021


Photo courtesy : Dr.Debarati Halder

Pegasus software is being used for surveillance targeting journalists and activists including women.

Several men face huge loss in their crypto trade related to cryptocurrency OEN due to romance scam where they were allured to be involved with attractive Chinese women. Hongkong police initiates cross border investigation for nabbing the culprits.

Man continued to harass women over phone and escaped clutches of law by frequenty changing numbers. Police arrest him, sends to judicial custody and starts investigation over the complaint filed by one of the victims who approached the Superintendent of the police directly.

Business gets arrested by Mumbai police for allegedly being involved in porn racket which had targeted and victimized several female actors.

Bangalore police arrests conman who was duping women as royal family member of Mysuru, Karnataka.

Women activists in Baluchistan face online harassment which is forcing them to stop their activities towards gender empowerment.

Cyber fraudsters in Lagos , Nigeria allegedly use nudity of women who are procured by the former, to destroy the evidences when police nabs the crime hotspots to arrest such fraudsters.

Internet platform operators are held liable for online auctioning of Muslim women. National Commission for Women, India takes a strong note of the same and asks the criminal justice machinery to take immediate action.

UK government commissioned review suggests to make cyber flashing a criminal offence

Is using electronic payment mode mandatory?


We are facing challenge of Covid-19 restrictions. A whole generation is facing another unique challenge. Many senior citizens and people from socio-backward classes and communities are unable to exercise their basic right to life because they may be unable to use the electronic payment mechanisms.

By the end of 1990’s electronic commerce started getting popularity and almost by the first half of the millennium, banks of several countries had expanded their services for electronic money transactions. Soon plastic money in the forms of ATM, credit, debit cards etc., were introduced and the smart generation started relying more on plastic money rather than carrying currency in their wallets. But this proved dangerous for majority. There were physical theft of wallets and the cards, misuse of the cards, hacking of e banking systems which directly affected the card operating systems, ATM machines were unauthorizedly accessed, spycams were installed in the machines to detect the banking information including the passwords etc. Senior citizens were worst affected as most of them in countries like India could not operate the e-banking system or the cards: either they could not understand the operational mechanisms or they were not physically able to conduct the entire transactions either through the ATMs, or through their smart devices. This was due to generation gap.

With the advancement of technology, e wallets were introduced. Through online banking mechanisms, one can deposit a particular amount of money in e—wallets. However, this would not be operating as a single and independent device or mechanism. Users may connect their valid government identity proofs with e-wallets. Such e-wallets may necessarily be used through computers, smart phones etc.[1]Everything remains virtual except the device/s that will help a user to access the online transaction mechanisms. It has been continuously stated that plastic money, e-wallets and e-banking systems are safe and better than carrying the currency.

But do we really know who is safeguarding our money in this system? A few provisions Chapter III of our very own Information Technology Act, 2000(amended in 2008) would make this clear. Chapter III discusses about electronic governance. S.6A of the Information Technology Act (IT Act), 2000, amended in 2008 is noteworthy here: it says as follows:

6A Delivery of services by service provider. –

(1) The appropriate Government may, for the purposes of this Chapter and for efficient delivery of services to the public through electronic means authorise, by order, any service provider to set-up, maintain and upgrade the computerised facilities and perform such other services as it may specify by notification in the Official Gazette. Explanation. -For the purposes of this section, service provider so authorised includes any individual, private agency, private company, partnership firm, sole proprietor firm or any such other body or agency which has been granted permission by the appropriate Government to offer services through electronic means in accordance with the policy governing such service sector.

(2) The appropriate Government may also authorise any service provider authorised under sub-section (1) to collect, retain and appropriate such service charges, as may be prescribed by the appropriate Government for the purpose of providing such services, from the person availing such service.

(3) Subject to the provisions of sub-section (2), the appropriate Government may authorise the service providers to collect, retain and appropriate service charges under this section notwithstanding the fact that there is no express provision under the Act, rule, regulation or notification under which the service is provided to collect, retain and appropriate e-service charges by the service providers.

(4) The appropriate Government shall, by notification in the Official Gazette, specify the scale of service charges which may be charged and collected by the service providers under this section: Provided that the appropriate Government may specify different scale of service charges for different types of services.


Online transactions for e-commerce purposes are directly connected with the concept of service delivery by service providers. S.6A has got two main component parts: (i) authorization to the service providers by the government to set up provisions for delivery of services in the electronic mode; and (ii) collection of service charges by the service charges. Whenever we get to see a smooth or a bumpy operation of services from the banks or from any other government or corporate authorities, we must know that there is a secret team behind that government department, bank or the corporate authority. They may be independent agencies who are commissioned by such government /bank/corporate authorities. These ‘secret teams’ perform all the technical functions for economic transactions, maintenance of the records for money transactions, maintenance of cyber security issues etc.,  and they are duty bound to not to violate the confidentiality of the user-data. Intact there are layers of contracts between the actual user and the bank/government/company, between such service provider and the actual users and the government etc. We know only the first layer of contracts and agreements between us, the actual users and the bank/government /company etc., who are providing us certain services or even goods. But there are several examples of violating the agreements and contracts. These ‘service providers’ know us more than we know ourselves because they know our bank details, our spending habits and even our location data too.

Considering the risk for breaching of confidentiality in all such cases S.7A of the IT Act, 2000(amended in 2008) has prescribed for auditing of documents etc., maintained in electronic forms. This Section says as follows:

“7A Audit of documents, etc., maintained in electronic form. -Where in any law for the time being in force, there is a provision for audit of documents, records or information, that provision shall also be applicable for audit of documents, records or information processed and maintained in the electronic form.”

But this is hugely neglected by many stakeholders and this loophole creates several data breaching related legal issues. The Indian legislature has also brought in the Intermediary guidelines Rules, 2021 which also shifts the liability for data protection for intermediaries in certain cases.

However, we must not forget that there is digital divide in our societies. Adults including men, women and people belonging to LGBTQ communities may not always access information and digital communication systems and services. This is a universal problem. Women may not be empowered to use electronic devices in socio-economically backward classes and communities. Not to forget that even though Indian constitution mandates for equal pay for all, women may not always get equal pay in unorganized sectors. Many households in India as well as in many Asian countries do not allow women to take any decision related to family-finances.  But there are situations when people are forced to use electronic payment/transaction systems. Covid-19 pandemic is one such situation where the WHO advised to reduce usage of anything which may transmit the viruses from people to people: reduction of usage of currency notes were also suggested as it was understood that the materials in the currency notes may get wet with sweat, saliva etc., and this may be extremely dangerous since it might increase the risk of spreading of pandemic. But there are new researches coming up every day which are suggesting how to take precautions while dealing with papers (including materials which are used to make currency notes) or clothes during pandemic times.

In all such cases, aren’t our constitutional rights get violated if the government or any other stakeholder insists on e-transactions? It actually does.

Answer to this question may be found in S.9 of the IT Act, 2000(amended in 2008). This says as follows:

Sections 6, 7 and 8 not to confer right to insist document should be accepted in electronic form.-Nothing contained in sections 6, 7 and 8 shall confer a right upon any person to insist that any Ministry or Department of the Central Government or the State Government or any authority or body established by or under any law or controlled or funded by the Central or State Government should accept, issue, create, retain and preserve any document in the form of electronic records or effect any monetary transaction in the electronic form.

Nonetheless, the above mentioned provision empowers all who may not be able to use or who may want to refuse the use of electronic payment system. But this may not always be considered as the Rule: this is rather Exceptio probat regulam (an exception proves the rule) in the era of internet. Even though the government and other corporate stakeholders may extend their services on humanitarian grounds to help those who may not be able to use the digital payment systems or the e-wallets etc., people’s trust may easily be broken by gross misuse of the powers that such ‘helpers’ may have: ATM debit cards may be stolen, data may be compromised, e-wallets may be illegally operated by such ‘volunteers’ who may want to gain illegal and unethical profits at the cost of innocent people.

It will take longer time to make people from all backgrounds aware about electronic payment modes. It will probably take even longer to control cyber criminality targeting vulnerable people. One must not violate the legal norms and constitutional principles to make the right to life of others almost unachievable. Vulnerable groups including senior citizens, disabled people, socio-economically backward communities, women and children must be given enough protection to gain their trust so that all can survive and win over adverse situations.

Please note: Please  do not violate the copyright of this writeup. Please site it as Halder Debarati (2021) Is using electronic payment mode mandatory?  Published @ on 22-04-2021

Gender and Internet : Web magazine for Cyber law for women News update for March 13-April 18,2021


Picture credit: Debarati Halder

Indian court makes strict guidelines for searching smart devices for collecting evidences.

Woman from US allegedly creates deep fake videos to harass teen cheer leaders. Police starts investigation.

Hotel booking site encounters data breach and several customers’ data gets breached. The booking site is held liable for late reporting of the matter to the criminal justice authorities.

Nigeria Court convicts 11 internet fraudsters for sending misrepresenting electronic messages to women for duping them under Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention, Etc) Act, 2015 and prescribes imprisonment for all of them.

Egypt court sentences a man for 8 years imprisonment for cyber crimes targeting women which included cyber stalking and sending unsolicited sexually explicit pictures to women.

United Arab Emirates deports 11 Ukranian nationals to Ukrain who were allegedly involved in a naked photo shoot in Dubai.

Police in Mumbai, India detects and closes down apps that showcased illegal porn contents. Police reveals that Covid 19 lockdown helped booming of illegal porn industry

Gender and Internet : Web magazine for Cyber law for women News update for February 8, 2021-March14,2021

Women are victimized not only by men, but by women also. #stopviolenceagainstwomen

Picture credit: Debarati Halder

Court in England condemns revenge porn by defendant who exposed victim’s photo despite her plea to not to do it. Court provides defendant ‘no contact order’ and orders for destroying defendant’s phone.

Woman allegedly shields herself by stalking. resultant Ontario court of justice recognizes new tort law for internet harassment

Women arrested for crypto currency fraud in Australia

Man gets arrested in India for creating morphed picture and coercing for nude chat

4 women gets arrested for cyber sexual exploitation of children in Philippines

Woman posing as man on social media sites harasses other women and gets arrested in Pakistan.

Gender and Internet : Web magazine for Cyber law for women News update for January26th- February 7, 2021

Picture credit : Debarati Halder

British woman in Dubai had a spat with flatmate over sharing dining table as workspace during Covid 19 lockdown period, sends indecent word over WhatsApp chat and gets detained by police.

Serbian man charged with creating fake investment farm and duping several others especially from USA, is extradited to Dallas to face the federal prosecution. FBI reports that several women were also involved as conspirators in this money laundering case.

US senators introduce Safe Tech Act in the wake of January 6 riot over US Capitol in Washington to limit the power of S.230 of the Communication Decency Act which shield web companies from liability for contents posted by users. This is expected to make the web companies more liable for cyber stalking , online harassment etc.

Arunachal man in India complaints to the police about creation of fake profiles in the name of his wife which shared obscene and indecent posts. On investigation and with the information from Facebook, police arrests local woman who allegedly created the fake profile.

E commerce platform Myntra changed its controversial logo as Mumbai police receives complaint alleging that the logo insults women.

Cape Town woman loses money in romance scam. Two suspects gets arrested and they would be appearing in Bellville Special Commercial Crime Court, Cape Town