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The Supreme Court today directed for all the cases concerning regulation of social media to be transferred from various High Courts to itself.
The order was passed in the transfer petition filed by Facebook and WhatsApp seeking transfer of various pending cases to the Supreme Court. The Court today was informed that the State of Tamil Nadu is not opposed to the transfer of the case to the Supreme Court.
The primary case concerning linkage of Aadhaar with social media and WhatsApp traceability is pending before the Madras High Court.
When the matter was taken up for hearing today, Attorney General for India KK Venugopal, arguing for the State of Tamil Nadu, said that the Information Technology Act provides for decryption of data. Section 69 of the Act empowers the government to ensure that data from intermediaries may be decrypted.
However, the Court noted that while the provision empowers the government in such a manner, intermediaries cannot be forced to decrypt the data for the government under those provisions. Senior Counsel Mukul Rohatgi for Facebook agreed with the Court on this point.
Senior Counsel Shyam Divan, representing the Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), interjected to submit that the hearing in the Court should be restricted to the transfer petition alone. He argued,
“In a transfer petition, rights of citizens are trampled upon and later it becomes very difficult. It’s important that the Court refrains itself from making any observations and restricts to hearing the case on issue of transfer at this point.”
IFF had opposed the transfer of the matter to the Supreme Court in light of the fact that pleadings before the Madras High Court are nearly complete.
The State of Tamil Nadu, which was earlier opposed to transferring the case to the Supreme Court, informed the Court that they are no longer opposed to the transfer.
The Bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose thus proceeded to transfer the cases from various High Courts to the Supreme Court.
The Centre has sought time till January 15 next year for finalising social media norms to make intermediaries more liable and accountable. In this light, the Court has fixed the next date of hearing for the last week of January 2020.