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The Delhi High Court today refused to pass a direction to the Central government to link social media accounts with Aadhaar, PAN, voter ID etc in order to weed out fake, duplicate and ghost accounts.
The order was passed by a Division Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar in a petition by advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay.
It was the petitioner’s case that such linking would help curb the menace of fake news, especially during elections.
After hearing the petitioner-in-person, the Court opined that no writ/writ of mandamus could be issued by it in the exercise of its power under Article 226 for drafting a policy or for amending an existing act. It further stated that it could not pass any direction to Centre on how to discuss, deliberate and decide upon a Law Commission Report.
“The role of courts is primarily to interpret the law as it is. We are not concerned with law as it ought to be. The primary role of law as per the theory of positivism is to interpret the law and not make law, except in exceptional circumstances, especially when there is a gap in law or it is silent..”
The Court also took note of the petitioner’s claim that fake, duplicate or ghost accounts constituted 18-20% of the total number of accounts on social media.
It thus raised a concern that in order to weed out approximately 20% of accounts, all the Aadhaar, PAN, Voter or other data of 80% of the accounts will go in a foreign country which will have far-ranging consequences.
“Thus, if such type of direction for linkage of Aadhaar, PAN or Voter ID is ordered by the Court, there may be a situation where data of genuine account holder (who are 80% of the total) will also go in a foreign country, maybe unnecessarily..To do a small good.. large account holder data will be at stake..”
The Court, therefore, took on record the statement made by the Standing Counsel for Centre, Advocate Anil Soni that the Centre was already deliberating on the issue and a Law Commission Report on the issue was also being considered and asked the Centre to bring appropriate policy/amend the law on the issue in accordance with the law, rules, regulations, while balancing between the data of genuine account holders and fake ones.
As far as the petitioner’s prayer for a direction to the Centre, Election Commission and Press Council to take suitable steps to control ‘Fake News’ and ‘Paid News’ particularly when the Model Code of Conduct is in force was concerned, the same shall be considered by them as a representation, the Court said. The plea to declare that the phrase ‘other similar apparatus’ in Section 126(1)(b) of the Representation of the People Act 1951 includes Radio, Print Media, Digital Media and Social Media will also be considered by the Centre in the form of representation.
In view of the above, the petition was disposed of with a clarification that the petitioner may “agitate at an appropriate stage”.
Earlier in October, this year, the Supreme Court refused to entertain a fresh PIL seeking linkage of Aadhaar with social media profiles.