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Friday, Sep 20, 2019

Supreme Court asks if law being made on Aadhaar-social media linkage

The central government spelled out its stand in the top court during the hearing of a petition by Facebook Inc, seeking the transfer of petitions from various high courts to the Supreme Court.

india Updated: Sep 14, 2019 00:27 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
New Delhi
The Facebook petition says that cases have been filed in the Madras, Bombay and Madhya Pradesh high courts, noting that they have a common objective.
The Facebook petition says that cases have been filed in the Madras, Bombay and Madhya Pradesh high courts, noting that they have a common objective. (Sonu Mehta/HT FILE PHOTO)
         

The Centre said on Friday that it wasn’t opposed to the transfer to the Supreme Court cases pending in the high courts over the linking of social media accounts with the Aadhaar unique identity number, taking a stand that’s at variance with the Tamil Nadu government’s.

“We are not opposed to the transfer of the petitions to Supreme Court, but the court must also take into account that high courts have spent substantial time hearing the cases,” solicitor general of India Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said.

The central government spelled out its stand in the top court during the hearing of a petition by Facebook Inc, seeking the transfer of petitions from various high courts to the Supreme Court. The petitioners want social media accounts linked to the 12-digit Aadhaar number for authentication.

The Facebook petition says that cases have been filed in the Madras, Bombay and Madhya Pradesh high courts, noting that they have a common objective. The petitions should be clubbed and heard by the top court, the company has prayed before the court, seeking to forestall potential conflicting verdicts.

Facebook is also aggrieved by the fact that the Madras high court has expanded the scope of the petition to consider such issues as online abuse and fake news being circulated on social media, and is looking to define the liabilities of the intermediaries.

“Transfer would serve the interests of justice by avoiding the possibility of conflicting decisions from the four common cases. Indeed, avoiding conflicting decisions is particularly necessary here to ensure that users are afforded equal privacy protections across India, and to prevent the infeasible situation where the petitioner, which operates a uniform platform throughout India, is ordered to link Aadhaar information only for users in certain Indian states but not others,” read Facebook’s petition.

A bench of justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose remarked that “these matters must be decided as early as possible”, and asked the Centre if “it is contemplating anything (in terms of a law on linking of social media accounts to Aadhaar) in near future”. The court also observed that it will focus just on the transfer issue and will not go into the merits of the case.

The court has given a week to the Centre to respond to its query and listed the matter for further hearing on September 20.

The Tamil Nadu government is opposing Facebook’s plea seeking to transfer a case pending in the Madras high court on the traceability of online crimes to the top court.

In its application, the Tamil Nadu government has said the case wasn’t about the linking of Aadhaar to social media accounts, as Facebook had presented in the apex court, but about the traceability of online crimes and fake messages.

The state alleged that Facebook misrepresented the high court proceedings before the Supreme Court.

“The Transfer petition filed before this Hon’ble Court is replete with false and misleading averments, in a blatant attempt to misguide this Hon’ble Court for oblique motives. While the Transfer Petition proceeds on the sole premise that the cases in the Madras high court relate to mandatory linking of social media accounts with Aadhaar, it was a matter of record that the Court was only proceeding to ensure effective compliance with the Information Technology Act, 2000, and the Rules framed there under, and also for the perception and detection of crimes.”

Last month, the Supreme Court issued notice to the Tamil Nadu government and Centre on Facebook’s transfer petition, asking the top court to call for the case from the Madras high court and also other courts where similar issues have been raised.

First Published: Sep 13, 2019 20:34 IST