New Delhi: The ministry of electronics and information technology may not be in favour of linking social media accounts with Aadhaar as it feels that the use the unique identification number is possible for only certain cases under the apex court’s landmark judgement on privacy last year.
This comes just as the Supreme Court on Friday sought response from the Centre by 24 September as to whether it is in the process of formulating any law, rules or guidelines with respect to linkage of Aadhaar details with social media accounts to prevent misuse by the social media account holder.
“There are earlier judgements which are around privacy. The use of Aadhaar has to be carefully looked at from many angles. We will study all judgements. We are looking at this very seriously," a top government official said requesting anonymity.
In 2018, Supreme Court, in a landmark judgement, had restricted Aadhaar’s mandatory use only to permanent account number (PAN), income tax returns and for central government subsidies. Now, it can also be used for mobile number verification.
“If a crime is committed in some colony, is Aadhaar a mandatory requirement to investigate it? Just because the criminal does not have Aadhaar, that does not mean that you can’t catch him," the official said, suggesting that Aadhaar is not material to the issue of traceability.
The ministry has also written to the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) seeking its opinion on linking social media accounts to the 12-digit unique identification number.
Moreover, the government’s response is key for the apex court to decide on the issue of transfer of the case to Supreme Court.
The Apex court bench comprising of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose were on Friday hearing the transfer petition filed by Facebook Inc wherein it sought the transfer of various petitions pending in different High Courts to Supreme Court on the issue of linkage of Aadhaar with social media accounts.
"At this stage we do not know whether we could decide this issue or the high court will decide," said the division bench while also stating the matter needs to be decided at the earliest.
The bench clarified that since this is a transfer petition, the case would not be decided on the merit of the case as of now.
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, the respondent in the case, has filed a counter affidavit wherein it has stated 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 20 August, 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.
The state government has also 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 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 stated in its reply.
Facebook in its transfer petition filed in Supreme Court had contended that there are four petitions including — two in Madras High Court, one in Bombay HC and one in Madhya Pradesh High Court— and they contained almost similar prayers. The social media company 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.