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The Supreme Court today sought a response from the Central government on whether it is contemplating formulation of any guidelines regarding linking of social media with Aadhaar and traceability of WhatsApp messages.
While doing so, the Bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose said that the Court will hear the matter on the issue of transferring the petitions from various High Courts to itself.
When the hearing began, the Solicitor General for India Tushar Mehta told the Court that while the Centre is not opposed to the matter being transferred, a considerable amount of judicial time has been spent on the case by the High Courts.
The Court at this point asked the Centre if any rules or guidelines as regards social media and Aadhaar linkage was in the pipeline. The Centre’s response on this would affect the Supreme Court’s decision on the question of transfer, the Bench said.
The matter will be taken up next on September 24. The Court also clarified that the merits of the case will not be heard at this stage, and that the hearing will only be on the question of transfer.
The Union of India was represented by SG Tushar Mehta, while Senior Counsel Mukul Rohatgi and Kapil Sibal represented Facebook and WhatsApp respectively.
Last month, the Supreme Court had issued notice in a plea filed by Facebook seeking to transfer various proceedings involving the social media giant from the high courts to the Apex Court. While adjourning the matter, the Supreme Court had also directed that no final or effective orders should be passed by the High Courts in the meanwhile.
Among the cases are petitions involving prayers for linkage of of Aadhaar with social media profiles and concerns of traceability of the originator of messages on platforms such as WhatsApp.
In the meanwhile, State of Tamil Nadu moved an application in the Supreme Court seeking orders to ensure that the Madras High Court is allowed to continue hearing the social media companies case concerning the traceability of online crimes.
The Division Bench at the Madras High Court had adjourned the matter, given the fact that the Supreme Court is seized of the matter.
Further, Facebook’s move to transfer the case from the Madras High Court has also been challenged on the ground that the petitioner had misrepresented an idea that the case primarily revolves around prayers to link Aadhaar and social media accounts. It may be noted that the Madras High Court has made it clear during initial hearings, right from last year, that the plea for Aadhaar linkage will not be entertained.
In view of these concerns, the State of Tamil Nadu has prayed that the Supreme Court modify its earlier order passed on August 20 so as to facilitate case hearings in the Madras High Court.