The Supreme Court on Tuesday (October 22) transferred all cases related to the linkage of social media profiles with Aadhaar pending in different high courts to itself.
Facebook and WhatsApp sought the transfer of these cases to the top court so that they could have a bearing on national security. The social media platforms had contended that the role of social media in criminal investigation needed to be decided by the apex court as it would have a global effect.
The Tamil Nadu government had managed to thwart the social media giants’ attempts to get the cases transferred to the Supreme Court until now.
The bench’s order to transfer these cases came after Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for Tamil Nadu, dropped his opposition to a Facebook plea seeking transfer of all cases pending in different high courts to the apex court. “Facebook and WhatsApp can’t say that they can’t decrypt information after coming to India,” he said before dropping the opposition.
A bench of justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose asked the registry to place all cases related to the linking of Aadhaar with social media profiles for listing in the last week of January 2020.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, clarified that linking Aadhaar with social media profiles was not a ploy to breach the privacy of individuals but an attempt to protect national security and sovereignty.
On Monday (October 21), the Centre had told the court that the internet has emerged as a potent tool to cause “unimaginable disruption” to a democratic polity. The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) had told the top court that though technology had led to economic growth and societal development, there was also an exponential rise in hate speech, fake news and anti-national activities.
Expressing serious concern over social media platforms not being able to trace the originator of a message or an online content, the apex court had said that the government must step in now.
The Centre sought three more months for finalising and notifying the rules that would regulate the functioning of social media intermediaries in the country and said that it would be ready in January.
These rules would supposedly aim to regulate fake news, hate speech, defamation, and anti-national activities on social media.