Aadhaar linking case: HC says no to order of linking social media accounts with Aadhaar, PAN

HC says it would lead to data of genuine account holders going 'unnecessarily' to foreign countries.


The Delhi High Court Monday declined to order linking of social media accounts with Aadhaar, PAN or voter ID card for weeding out fake accounts, saying it would lead to data of genuine account holders, who are much more in number, going "unnecessarily" to foreign countries.

A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar said linking of accounts with social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp, with Aadhaar, PAN or any other identity document requires framing of policies or amendment in existing laws by the central government and this exercise cannot be done by the court.

"Role of courts is to interpret the law as it is. We are not concerned with what the law ought to be," it said, adding that in exceptional cases where there is a gap in the law, the courts can step in.

(Also read: Stricter social media regulations in India to be finalised in three months: MeitY)

 Aadhaar linking case: HC says no to order of linking social media accounts with Aadhaar, PAN

HC said that in the instant case, linking social media accounts with identity data like Aadhaar or PAN was a "crucial matter" which has to be appreciated by the central government. Image: Reuters

It said that in the instant case, linking of social media accounts with identity data like Aadhaar or PAN was a "crucial matter" which has to be appreciated by the central government and it cannot be treated as a "gap" which needs to be plugged by the court as it "would have far-reaching consequences regarding data of genuine account holders".

(Also read: Aadhaar-social media linking case: Major developments leading up to Supreme Court's nod to hear Facebook's plea)

The bench said it was not inclined to issue any direction to the government as it is already deliberating on the Law Commission reports on the issue and disposed of the PIL seeking directions to the Centre to take steps for linking social media accounts with Aadhaar, PAN or voter ID card to weed out fake accounts.

It, however, told the government to keep in mind that identity data of genuine account holders was also at stake and a "proper balance" has to be struck by it while taking a decision on the issue.

In its order, the bench noted that according to BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, who had moved the plea, 20 percent of the social media accounts were "fake, ghost or duplicate".

"To weed out 20 percent fake accounts, all the data, including that of genuine account holders, will go to a foreign country. Majority of account holders are genuine. Therefore, if linkage is ordered by this court, there may be a situation where data of genuine account holders will also go to foreign countries, maybe unnecessarily," the court said.

(Also read: All Aadhaar-social media linking cases have been transferred to SC: Report)

During the hearing, Upadhyay said something has to be done as anyone can create a fake account on social media of any person, including the judges, and through that medium wrong or controversial information can be spread.

He had also alleged in his petition that fake social media accounts are used to propagate "fake and paid news" during elections.

In August this year, Madras High Court also dismissed the prayer to link Aadhaar to social media accounts, as it violated the Supreme Court judgement on Aadhaar usage. A division bench of justices S Manikumar and Subramonium Prasad made it clear that it was not inclined to entertain the prayer for linking Aadhaar with social media accounts, but was only trying to navigate ways to curb online crime with the co-operation of social media companies.

The suggestion for linking Aadhaar with social media accounts was first made by the Tamil Nadu government, which is facing resistance from Facebook on the ground that sharing of 12-digit Aadhaar number, the Biometric Unique Identity, would violate the privacy policy of users. That is in line with what Delhi HC has said today.

The state government said that "The linking of social media profiles of the users with the Aadhaar was needed to check fake news, defamatory articles, pornographic materials, anti-national and terror contents in the online media."

With inputs from PTI.

 

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