The Supreme Court on Thursday gave Trinamool Congress MLA Mahua Moitra two weeks to substantiate her claim that the Unique Identification Authority of India’s plan to hire a social media agency is actually intended to enable state surveillance of individuals, The Indian Express reported.
“The petitioner shall within two weeks file a supplementary affidavit indicating the basis of apprehension that the exercise proposed by the state is intended to bring in state surveillance, as alleged,” said a three-judge bench that included Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi. “Please satisfy that the exercise is being undertaken for surveillance,” the court told Mohammed Nizam Pasha, Moitra’s advocate.
Moitra had moved the top court against the Aadhaar authority’s plans in July. Moitra’s petition follows Scroll.in’s reportage about the UIDAI’s plans to monitor the coverage of its biometrics-based 12-digit Aadhaar identification number in news media and scan social media conversations to ascertain the public perception about it. The authority, which manages the Aadhaar database of more than one billion Indians, said it wants to use the data to identify “detractors” and “influencers” and run campaigns to “neutralise” the “negative sentiments” on the social media.
On Thursday, Pasha told the Supreme Court that he had included the evidence that the UIDAI intends to bring in state surveillance, in the petition itself. However, the court said what he had submitted were the contents of the Request for Proposal the UIDAI had issued.
Pasha argued that the Request for Proposal was evidence enough of the Centre’s real intentions. He said that the Supreme Court had in its judgement on the constitutionality of the Aadhaar scheme restricted its use to welfare schemes. Pasha argued that most people who avail of these schemes do not use social media, and therefore, the UIDAI’s decision to monitor Twitter and Facebook was strange. However, he agreed to furnish additional information as sought by the court.