The Supreme Court on Friday sought the Centre’s response on whether it will frame guidelines to link social media profiles with Aadhaar, Bar and Bench reported.

A bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose said the matter needed to be heard at the earliest but did not decide whether the High Courts or the Supreme Court will hear it, according to PTI.

The court was hearing a petition filed by Facebook to transfer cases being heard in the High Courts of Madras, Bombay and Madhya Pradesh in connection with the linking of social media profiles with Aadhaar. In its transfer petition, Facebook had said that the cases pending in the High Courts involved similar questions of law and should be heard by the Supreme Court to avoid conflicting judgements.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the Centre, said he had no objection with transferring the case to the top court. The Supreme Court will next hear the transfer petition on September 24.

Facebook had 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] ordered to link Aadhaar information for users only in certain Indian states but not others”.

On August 20, the top court had issued notices to the Centre, Google, Twitter, YouTube and other stakeholders and sought a response by September 13.

The Tamil Nadu government on Thursday told the Supreme Court that Facebook and other social media organisations were not abiding by Indian laws, leading to an increase in lawlessness and difficulties in solving crimes, PTI reported.

The state government asked the top court to modify its August 20 order, which had directed the Madras High Court to continue hearing petitions that sought to link social media profiles with Aadhaar but restrained it from passing any orders. The Tamil Nadu government told the Supreme Court that despite conducting several hearings, the Madras High Court had deferred the petitions about linking Aadhaar to social media profiles because of the SC order.

“In the absence of expeditious disposal of the instant matter, foreign companies such as the petitioner [Facebook Inc] would continue to operate in India without complying with or submitting to Indian law, the effect of which as evident is increased lawlessness, greater difficulty in preventing and detecting crimes and overall breakdown of law and order,” the Tamil Nadu government said in its reply.

“These companies, instead of replying and providing information in a bona fide manner, have asked the authorities to send letters rogatory, etc, despite operating on Indian soil and have in all cases failed to provide complete information,” the state government added. It added that Facebook’s transfer petition was full of “false and misleading averments”.

The Tamil Nadu government had told the Supreme Court in August 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 had responded 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.

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