The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear Facebook’s petition to transfer cases being heard in some High Courts in connection with the linking of social media profiles with Aadhaar, PTI reported. The petition sought the transfer of the cases from the High Courts of Madras, Bombay and Madhya Pradesh to the top court.
In its transfer petition, Facebook had said that the cases pending in the High Courts involve similar questions of law and should be heard by the Supreme Court to avoid conflicting judgements, Live Law reported. Facebook said it was necessary to “ensure that users are afforded equal privacy protections across India, and to prevent the infeasible situation where the petitioner [Facebook]...is ordered to link Aadhaar information for users only in certain Indian states but not others”.
On Tuesday, the top court issued a notice to the Centre, Google, Twitter, YouTube and others and asked them for a response by September 13.
On Monday, the Tamil Nadu government had told the Supreme Court that social media profiles of users need to be linked with Aadhaar to check the circulation of fake, defamatory, anti-national, terror-related and pornographic content.
Facebook has said that sharing of the Aadhaar would violate users’ privacy. The company said it cannot share the Aadhaar number with a third party as the content on its messaging platform Whatsapp was end-to-end encrypted.
Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for the Tamil Nadu government, had on Monday opposed Facebook’s plea. He had said that though Facebook claimed that WhatsApp messages are end-to-end encrypted, an Indian Institute of Technology professor had said the origin of a message can be traced.
Venugopal argued that the Madras High Court has conducted 18 hearings so far and hence it should be allowed to deliver a verdict. The bench said the hearing in the Madras High Court will continue but no final order will be passed.
Senior advocates Mukul Mohatgi and Kapil Sibal, who appeared for Facebook and WhatsApp, said the Supreme Court will have to decide if service providers can be asked to share data with probe agencies to help them in investigating criminal cases as it will have a global effect.
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