The Supreme Court on Friday said the proposal of the Unique Identification Authority of India to hire an agency to monitor various social media platforms was contrary to its submissions in the court, PTI reported. The court asked Attorney General KK Venugopal to assist it in the matter.
A bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud made the observations while hearing a plea by Trinamool Congress MLA Mahua Moitra. She said that the Aadhaar authority’s bid document said it would hire a social media agency for “online reputation management” and “social listening” tools to monitor and influence conversations about the unique ID project.
“Monitoring is directly against the submissions made by the UIDAI during the hearing of the Aadhaar matters,” the bench said. The UIDAI had told the Supreme Court it did not want to monitor online activities of citizens who have Aadhaar, the biometric-based identity number that the government wants every citizen to have.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing Moitra, told the court that the UIDAI’s move infringes on the fundamental right to privacy of citizens, NDTV reported. “Such an intrusive action on the part of the government is not only without the authority of law, but brazenly infringes on the fundamental right to freedom of speech,” the plea said. “Such an action of the government also violates the right of privacy.”
Chandrachud, who is part of the five-judge bench deciding the constitutional validity of Aadhaar, said the Centre had withdrawn a notification for creating a media hub to monitor online content after the Supreme Court observed that it would be like “creating a surveillance state”. The top court is expected to deliver its verdict in the Aadhaar case soon.