SC refers WhatsApp privacy issue to Constitution Bench

SC refers WhatsApp privacy issue to Constitution Bench

 The Supreme Court on Wednesday said the issue of right to privacy and free speech raised in the plea challenging the policy of WhatsApp on sharing data with its parent company Facebook has to be decided by a five-judge Constitution Bench.

“It has to go to the Constitution bench,” a bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud said, even as senior advocates K K Venugopal and Kapil Sibal, appearing for the mobile messaging app, maintained there was nothing to be decided by a larger Constitution bench.

At the previous hearing, it was said the issue affected a large number of people, the bench reminded the counsel. It said the Constitution bench would only frame issues and decide those if necessary.

“This bench has to decide after hearing us whether the case has to be referred to the Constitution bench. If the contract between WhatsApp and Facebook was to be challenged as violation of right to privacy, then it has to go to a larger than five-judge bench,” Venugopal said.

The court, however, said since the right to privacy and free speech was involved, the matter would be posted before a Constitution bench on April 18, and the counsel can argue their respective points there.

The court passed its order, even as Sibal contended communication through WhatsApp was “purely secure” and the issue involved was only a contract between the two entities.

The apex court had on January 16 sought responses from the Centre and telecom regulator Trai on a petition filed by Karmanya Singh Sareen and another student that the privacy of over 157 million Indians has been infringed upon by  WhatsApp and Facebook for commercial use of personal communication.

The petitioners raised the apprehension that the right to privacy of WhatsApp users on mobile phones was being compromised by the messaging application due to its sharing of information with Facebook.

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