The Supreme Court on Tuesday has issued a notice to the Centre, the Tamil Nadu Government and social media entities including Facebook, seeking their response on the Mark Zuckerberg founded social media company’s plea to transfer four cases in three High Courts to the top court.
The cases pertained to linking Aadhar or other government authorised identity proofs to social media accounts for authentication purpose.
The responses would aid the apex court in deciding whether social media entities be forced to share information about suspects or criminals with the police.
The Supreme Court has listed the matter for further hearing on September 13. Meanwhile, it has not imposed a stay on the proceedings of the cases being heard in the high courts but has asked them to desist from passing any final order.
The top court’s response comes after Facebook submitted a plea that the cases be transferred from the high courts to the top court as that would avoid the possibility of conflicting decisions from the High Courts.
Two petitions had been filed in the Madras High Court, while one each in the Bombay and Madhya Pradesh High Courts, Facebook told the apex court. The petitions in three High Courts have sought a declaration that Aadhaar or any other government authorised identity proof to be made mandatory to authenticate social media accounts.
Facebook, in its petition, said all the common cases underway in the high courts seek “similar relief” and involve similar questions of law”. The social media company has sought a stay on the cases being heard in the high courts.
The bench headed by Justice Deepak Gupta noted that the apex court needs to find a “balance” between the right to online privacy and the duty of the government to detect persons who commit crime online or spread panic. It needs to be decided “ under what condition information can be given and to whom”, said the bench.
Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for the Tamil Nadu Governemnt mentioned incidents of online games such as Blue Whale, which led to many deaths in India. He said the service providers didn’t provide details of the originator of the game.
For crimes including terrorism or pornography, there was no mechanism to detect the originator, said Venugopal. The sharing of information by social media with the police would help in solving cases of crime.
In order to check the circulation of fake, defamatory, and pornographic content as well as anti-national and terror material, the social media accounts of people must be linked with AAdhaar or other authorised id-proofs, the Tamil Nadu Government told the apex court.
While Facebook is keen on resisting the government’s suggestion on the grounds of violation of privacy. It said that it cannot share Aadhaar number with a third party as even they don’t have access to the content on its instant messaging app WhatsApp as it is end-to-end encrypted.