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SC: Does Centre Plan To Bring Law on Linking Aadhaar-Social Media?

Solicitor General told the bench that it has no objection to transfer of the cases from high courts to the top court

Updated
India
3 min read
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The Supreme Court on Friday, 13 September, asked the Centre if it intends to bring in regulatory guidelines to address the issue of linking social media accounts with Aadhaar.

A bench of justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose adjourned till 24 September a transfer plea by Facebook on moving four cases related to Aadhaar-social media linkage pending before the high courts of Mumbai, Madhya Pradesh and Madras.

The bench said it will not go into the merits of the case and would simply decide on the transfer petition. It noted that the transfer plea must be decided soon and without delay.

Madras High Court has already dismissed the plea for linking and is currently hearing arguments on the possibility of introducing traceabaility in encrypted messaging platforms like WhatsApp.

"At this stage we do not know whether we could decide this issue or the high court will decide,” the bench said on Friday

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Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that it has no objection in principle to transfer of the cases from high courts to the top court.

Facebook Move to Move the Cases to SC

The Tamil Nadu government, however, on Thursday claimed in the apex court that Facebook Inc and other social media companies were not complying with Indian laws, resulting in "increased lawlessness" and difficulties in "detecting crimes".

It had sought modification of the 20 August order of the apex court directing the Madras High Court to continue hearing of pleas for linkage of social media profiles with biometric ID Aadhaar but restraining it from passing any effective orders.

The high court is at an advanced stage of hearing but due to the apex court’s 20 August order, it had deferred the hearings on those petitions, the state government had said.

A respondent in the case, on conditions on anonymity said, “By going to the Supreme Court, Facebook Inc will lose the right to file a special leave petition to challenge the high court’s decision.”

“It is unusual for a foreign company to file a transfer plea. Such a plea is usually sought in two cases – defamation cases where, say, a journalist is accused in multiple courts and second in marital disputes to make it convenient for the more vulnerable party,” he added.

Referring to different criminal cases, the state government had said local law enforcement authorities have attempted to seek information from these companies for investigation and detection of crimes on several occasions.

It had said that these companies ask authorities to send letters rogatory "despite operating on Indian soil" and have in all cases "failed to provide complete information".

The state government had also submitted that the transfer petition of Facebook Inc filed before the court seeking to transfer cases from Madras, Bombay and Madhya Pradesh High Courts is replete with "false and misleading averments" and is a blatant attempt to misguide the Court for oblique motives.

On 20 August, the apex court had sought response from the Centre, Google, WhatsApp, Twitter, YouTube and others on Facebook Inc’s plea seeking transfer of cases related to linking of social media accounts with Aadhaar, pending in different high courts to the apex court.
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Can WhatsApp Messages be Traced to Originator?: Madras HC

The top court had asked social media companies including Facebook and WhatsApp to explain what would be the effect of recent amendments in Aadhaar Act by which the 12-digit unique identity number could be shared with the private party for larger public interest.

In this regard, Dr V Kamakoti, a professor of Computer Science at IIT Madras and a member of the National Security Advisory Board under the Prime Minister’s Office, submitted a formal report on traceability on 31 July.

Kamakoti, in his report to the court, provided two suggestions “detailing how originator information of a WhatsApp message could be traced”.

It had said that a IIT professor is helping the Madras High Court to identify the originator of messages on these social media platforms.

Facebook Inc had contended that there are four petitions including -- two in Madras High Court, one in Bombay and one in Madhya Pradesh high courts -- and they contained almost similar prayers.

(With Inputs from PTI)

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