The Supreme Court on Tuesday announced it is transferring to itself all the cases related to issue of whether a state can seek access to the social media accounts of Indian citizens from different high courts across the country.
As per reports, various cases on linking social media profiles with biometric ID Aadhaar and tracing the originator of a message are pending in different high courts across the country.
Due to the rampant misuse of social media, the government is trying to urge intermediaries like Facebook and Whatsapp to decrypt messages and provide the decrypted material to it so that appropriate action can be taken against an offender.
However, intermediaries like Facebook and Whatsapp pointed out that they don’t have the technology of decrypting the messages and the process is an intrusion of the privacy of an individual.
On Tuesday, a Supreme Court bench, during a hearing on the case, observed it is of the view, prima facie, that the liability should be on the intermediaries to decrypt a message or provide the material to the government for decryption.
However, attorney general K K Venugopal, appearing for the Tamil Nadu government, stated that the court should allow the government to facilitate the decryption access to the intermediaries.
“Now, these social media intermediaries cannot come into the country and say they cannot allow the decryption of the content,” he said.
“They cannot use the technology which does not allow decryption. They have to follow law of the land and subject to Indian jurisdiction,” Venugopal added.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi appearing for Facebook, said that the intermediaries are not obligated under the rules to allow the decryption.
“We don’t have the key to the door. We don’t have the technology to decrypt the messages,” he said.
“There is no such rule which mandates me to provide access. It is also the question of privacy of the individual and this has a world wide ramification,” he added.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for Centre, said they have filed an affidavit explaining that they need time till January 15 for notification of rules regulating the intermediaries as a wide scale consultation process is underway.
Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for the Internet Freedom Association, backed Facebook saying that the government wants to trample on the privacy of individuals.
Mehta opposed Divan’s view saying that the government is not trying to interfere in the privacy of an individual.
He also said that the court has to strike a balance between Individual’s privacy and the national security and sovereignty.