Case Description

The Supreme Court must decide whether to transfer to itself cases regarding mandatory Aadhaar-to-social-media linking, currently pending before three High Courts.

Background

Facebook has approached the Supreme Court seeking it to transfer a set of cases regarding Aadhaar-social media linking. In particular, it prayed for the Supreme Court to tag and transfer to itself four cases pending before three High Courts: two before the Madras High Court, one before the Bombay High Court and one before the Madhya Pradesh High Court.

 

Facebook contends that all four cases involve substantially similar reliefs and questions of law. Further, they involve the interpretation of central legislation, like the Aadhaar Act, 2016. Facebook is concerned that the High Courts may produce conflicting judgments, which will hinder its ability to operate a uniform platform across India. It contends that conflicting judgments may unequally guarantee the fundamental right to privacy across the Union.

 

The Cases

In 2018, animal rights activists Antony Clement Rubin and Janani Krishnamurthy filed PILs in the Madras High Court, seeking it to order the mandatory linking of e-mail and social media user accounts with ‘Aadhaar or any one of the Government authorized identity proofs’. The High Court expanded the scope of the petition to include issues of fake news spreading on social media – it tagged the WhatsApp traceability case. The court also sought to define the liabilities of intermediaries, such as Facebook and Google.

 

The Bombay High Court matter pertains to paid political advertisements. In October 2018, advocate Sagar Suryavanshi filed a petition seeking to ban paid political content 48 hours before election day, under Section 126 of the Representation of Peoples Act, 1951.

 

The Madhya Pradesh High Court case was filed by advocate Amitabh Gupta in July 2019 and pertains to applying KYC to Facebook and WhatsApp. The petition seeks the court to direct Facebook (which owns WhatsApp) to verify new users via identity proof documents, such as Aadhaar.

Issues

Does requiring mandatory Aadhaar linking to e-mail and social media accounts infringe upon the fundamental right to privacy?

What are the duties of intermediaries, such as social media platforms, in preventing cyber-crime and the spread of fake news?

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