WhatsApp issue: Facebook moves SC for transfer of four petitions

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Published: August 20, 2019 4:32:53 AM

Senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Facebook, argued that this mandatory linking of Aadhar or any other government authorised identity proof is also contrary to the principles set forth by the Constitution Bench in the Aadhaar case.

WhatsApp,WhatsApp issue, Facebook, SC, petition, Aadhar, industry news, supreme court, WhatsApp traceability issue, social mediaSenior counsel Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Facebook, argued that this mandatory linking of Aadhar or any other government authorised identity proof is also contrary to the principles set forth by the Constitution Bench in the Aadhaar case. (AP photo)

Facebook on Monday moved the Supreme Court seeking transfer of the four petitions on the WhatsApp traceability issue, pending before different high courts, to the apex court. All the petitions have sought similar relief to link Aadhar information to social media accounts, which would potentially allow for the attribution of content to the person who posted such content, it said.

A Bench led by Justice Deepak Gupta posted the matter for further hearing on Tuesday. Since the petition involves interpretation of central legislations such as Information Technology Act, 2000, and the Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Ordinance 2019, it is better if the petitions are heard by the apex court itself rather than by multiple fora, Facebook stated, adding that any conflicting findings would have far reaching implications for the general public/social media users, the central government and various state governments.

“Transfer would serve the interests of justice by avoiding the possibility of conflicting decisions from the four cases. Indeed, avoiding conflicting decisions is particularly necessary here to ensure that users are afforded equal privacy protections across India, and to prevent the infeasible situation where the petitioner (Facebook), which operates a uniform platform throughout India, is ordered to link Aadhar information only for users in certain Indian states but not others”.

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Senior counsel Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Facebook, argued that this mandatory linking of Aadhar or any other government authorised identity proof is also contrary to the principles set forth by the Constitution Bench in the Aadhaar case.

The petitions in the high courts of Delhi, Bombay, Madhya Pradesh and Madras essentially seek a declaration that Aadhaar or any other government authorised identity proof should be made mandatory to authenticate social media and utility accounts so as to check misinformation and fake profiles. However, the Madras HC had expanded the scope of the petition to include issues like “curbing cybercrime and intermediary liability”.

The Madras HC is currently hearing on methods in which the popular social media app can implement traceability of its encrypted messages, which some experts have claimed in court, is possible. Attorney General KK Venugopal told the judges that the government and an IIT professor are working on the issue and the latter feels one can find the origin of a message.

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