The Supreme Court (SC) of India on Monday (October 14) refused to entertain the public interest litigation (PIL) which sought linkage of Aadhaar with social media accounts.
A Bar and Bench report said that the PIL was filed by Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay. The case was taken up by the bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose who observed that a similar matter is pending before the Madras High Court.
The court bench observed that while the matter is important, everything cannot come before the SC. It said that the petitioner should approach the concerned High Court (HC).
As a result, Upadhyay was given liberty to withdraw the PIL. The case SC is referring to is the ongoing case between Facebook and the Centre as well as state governments.
A petition was filed in July 2018 in the Madras HC seeking to link Aadhaar with social media platforms. The case was heard by the HC which had then expanded the petition to include issues like ensuring message traceability for ‘curbing cybercrimes and intermediary liability’.
The case was requested to be taken to the SC by Facebook, which filed a transfer petition on public interest litigations (PILs) against WhatsApp’s traceability pending at the Madras HC, Bombay HC and in Madhya Pradesh HC. The SC had sought the Modi-led government’s view on the matter and warned against repercussions.
In the next hearing, the court asked the central government to submit a timeframe for formulating the guidelines to curb social media misuse within three weeks i.e. by October 22, the date of the next hearing.
However, Facebook and WhatsApp had strongly objected to Aadhaar linking, saying it would affect the privacy of its users. It said a nine-judge bench of the SC had upheld privacy as a fundamental right under Article 21 of the constitution. The Tamil Nadu government said that Facebook’s concerns on user privacy go against its own “primary business model” of commercialising user data through targeted ads.
The UIDAI has clearly stated that the government will have to enact a new law to link Aadhaar to social media accounts of individuals. The reason, according to UIDAI, is that the current legislation only enables the use of Aadhaar for schemes and subsidies funded under the Consolidated Fund of India. For anything outside the purview of this fund, a new law has to be put in place.
Ahead of the next hearing of October 22, yet-another PIL or case can create further trouble for Facebook and its India-focused growth plans.