Social media norms: SC allows transfer of pleas from high courts to itself

Accepting Facebook's plea, the Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed transfer of various petitions, related to guidelines for regulation of the social media in India, from different high courts to the top court.

A bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose said the matter will be heard in January after the Centre formulates new guidelines on intermediaries.

The apex court was hearing Facebook's plea seeking transfer of various petitions from different high courts to the Supreme Court.

Facebook had said that transfer of cases would serve the interests of justice by avoiding the possibility of conflicting decisions from the high courts. The social media giant told the apex court that two petitions had been filed in the Madras High Court and one each in the Bombay and Madhya Pradesh High Courts.

All the pleas in the High Courts have sought a direction that Aadhaar or any other government-authorised identity proof should be made mandatory to authenticate social media accounts.

Attorney General K.K. Venugopal told the court that the state of Tamil Nadu had no objection to the matter being transferred to the Supreme Court.

Representing the Centre, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the top court that terrorists cannot claim the privileges of privacy.

He said no intermediary can claim to be so safe and secure that it cannot provide details of terrorists and anti-national people and protect them. He also stressed for a balance between national interest, sovereignty of the country and privacy and added that the government is not invading in privacy of citizens.

The Attorney General told the court that government does not want to crack down on encrypted social media traffic to control crime, but expects help from online platforms to facilitate access.

Representing the petitioner, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi told the court that the intermediaries are caught between pro-privacy parties and the government.

The Centre informed the Supreme Court that the entire process of finalising laws on regulating the social media will be completed by January 2020, and sought three months more for notifying the final revised rules in accordance with the law.

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