The Supreme Court on Friday said the issue of linking of social media profiles with Aadhaar needs to be decided at the earliest.
A bench of justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose said, “At this stage we do not know whether we could decide this issue or the high court will decide”.
The bench further said it will not go into the merits of the case and would simply decide the transfer petition filed by Facebook seeking transfer of such cases pending before high courts of Madras, Bombay and Madhya Pradesh to the top court.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that it has no objection to transfer of the cases from high courts to the top court.
The Tamil Nadu government had on Thursday claimed in the apex court that Facebook Inc and other social media companies were not complying with Indian laws, resulting in “increased lawlessness” and difficulties in “detecting crimes”.
It had sought modification of the August 20 order of the apex court directing the Madras High Court to continue hearing of pleas for linkage of social media profiles with biometric ID Aadhaar but restraining it from passing any effective orders.
The high court is at an advanced stage of hearing but due to the apex court’s August 20 order, it had deferred the hearings on those petitions, the state government had said.
Referring to different criminal cases, the state government had said local law enforcement authorities have attempted to seek information from these companies for investigation and detection of crimes on several occasions.
It had said that these companies ask authorities to send letters rogatory “despite operating on Indian soil” and have in all cases “failed to provide complete information”.
The state government had also submitted that the transfer petition of Facebook Inc filed before the court seeking to transfer cases from Madras, Bombay and Madhya Pradesh High Courts is replete with “false and misleading averments” and is a blatant attempt to misguide the Court for oblique motives.
On August 20, the apex court had sought response from the Centre, Google, WhatsApp, Twitter, YouTube and others on Facebook Inc’s plea seeking transfer of cases related to linking of social media accounts with Aadhaar, pending in different high courts to the apex court.
Facebook Inc has contended that whether service providers can be asked to share data with probe agencies to help them in criminal investigation needs to be decided by the apex court as it will have a global effect.
The social media giant had argued that different high courts have taken contrary views and for the sake of uniformity it would be better, if the cases are heard at the Supreme Court.
It had said that sharing of data with third party involves privacy concerns of users spread across the country and the case of this magnitude should be heard at the apex court.
The top court had asked social media companies including Facebook and WhatsApp to explain what would be the effect of recent amendments in Aadhaar Act by which the 12-digit unique identity number could be shared with the private party for larger public interest.
The state government has argued that both Facebook and WhatsApp have accepted the jurisdiction of Madras High Court in dealing with the issue which would help agencies check fake news, pornographic content, terror messages as the originator could be traced.
It had said that a IIT professor is helping the Madras High Court to identify the originator of messages on these social media platforms.
Facebook Inc had contended that there are four petitions including — two in Madras High Court, one in Bombay and one in Madhya Pradesh high courts — and they contained almost similar prayers.