SC asks Centre about linking social media and Aadhaar

Representative image. Reuters file photo

The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Union government to tell if it was contemplating any move to link social media accounts of citizens on Facebook, Twitter etc to 12-digit unique identification number of 'Aadhaar'.

A bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose put the query to Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who sought time to take specific instruction in this regard.

The court put the matter for consideration on September 24 as Facebook and WhatsApp represented by senior advocates Mukul Rohatgi and Kapil Sibal respectively sought a direction to transfer a matter pending in this regard before the Madras High Court to the top court on the ground that it would have nation-wide ramifications.

Mehta, on his part, contended that he was informed that a substantial part of hearing had already taken place in the Madras HC. “However, we have no objection if the matter is transferred,” he said.

The bench, however, said, “If it (linking of Aadhaar to social media accounts) is in the realm of contemplation (by the Union government) in very near future, we may consider the issue.”

“This needs to be decided at the earliest,” the bench added.

The Tamil Nadu government, represented by Attorney General K K Venugopal and Additional Advocate General Balaji Srinivasan, opposed the transfer petition filed by Facebook.

It asked the court to lift its virtual stay on proceedings before the Madras HC, where issues of regulation and compliance by these companies with the Indian laws were pending. The top court had on August 20 restrained the HC from passing any order.

“If Facebook and its subsidiary WhatsApp are allowed to continue without complying with and submitting to Indian law, it may result in breakdown of law and order,” the state government said, citing criminal cases, including the Pollachi molestation case, wherein both the companies had declined to cooperate with the investigating agencies and provide requisite information.

A detailed 24-page reply drawn by Srinivasan and settled by Advocate General Vijay Narayan, stated Facebook’s concern about privacy was a “red herring”. The argument about privacy “does not lie in the mouth of the petitioner whose primary business model is the use and commercialisation of users’ data, which is in turn shared with businesses and political parties for targeted advertising”, it contended.

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