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Social media accounts should be linked with Aadhaar: Tamil Nadu before SC

State says linking needed to fight terrorism and fake news as Facebook appeals that the top court hears all such cases

Aashish Aryan  |  New Delhi 

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The Madras high court, while hearing the petition, had observed that the application to link Aadhaar with social media profile was dangerous as “it would affect the right to privacy of every individual”

profiles should be linked to users' number to check terrorist messages, pornography, and fake news, the told the Supreme Court on Monday.

The state told the court that it was working with Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) professors to find a solution to trace the origin of WhatsApp messages.

Tamil Nadu made the submissions when a two-judge bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose was hearing a petition by Facebook, to transfer all such cases pending in different high courts to the Supreme Court. The High Courts of Madras, Bombay, and Madhya Pradesh are hearing nearly similar petitions to link number with profiles. The case will now be heard on Tuesday.

Facebook said before the Supreme Court on Monday it was difficult for it to defend itself before high courts across the country. The high courts had given conflicting observations in the case, and it would be in the interest of justice if the apex court heard all the cases at one place, it said.

Facebook has sought the transfer, saying all the petitions pending before the high courts raise the same question of law and raise the same issue of whether private entities could use numbers of individuals.

“Transfer would serve the interests of justice by avoiding the possibility of conflicting decisions from the four common cases,” Facebook has said in its transfer petition.

The Tamil Nadu government, however, opposed the transfer, arguing that since the Madras high court has already had 18 hearings on the case, the apex court should wait for a comprehensive judgment before deciding on the issue.

There have been several Public Interest Litigations (PILs) filed in the case, with the earliest being moved before the Madras high court in July 2018. The petitioner, Antony Clement Rubin, had sought directions from the court to ask the government to make it mandatory to link Aadhaar or any other government authorised identity proof for authentication of profiles. Other similar PIL sought that Facebook should seek some sort of government authorised identity before allowing any person to open an account on its platform.

The Madras high court, while hearing the petition, had observed that the application to link Aadhaar with social media profile was dangerous as “it would affect the right to privacy of every individual”. The high court had however agreed to hear the case and said that service providers such as Facebook and WhatsApp should make efforts to “provide adequate information to the investigation agencies”.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Facebook, also said that the Tamil Nadu Police was of the view that Aadhaar number should be used for linking user profiles.

"They cannot tell us, how to run our platforms. We have end-to-end encryption on WhatsApp and even we don't have access to the content," Rohatgi said.

First Published: Mon, August 19 2019. 19:06 IST
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