AG tells SC social media accounts should be linked with Aadhaar in ‘National Interest’

New Delhi: Attorney General for India KK Venugopal on Tuesday emphasised in the Supreme Court the need to link Aadhaar with social media accounts in order to trace users in national interest.

The top law officer submitted before a bench headed by Justice Deepak Gupta that spurt in cyber crimes, use of social media in terror-related activities and inciting violence, pornography etc require identity of users to be made known to law enforcement agencies.

Venugopal, who is appearing in the batch of transfer petitions for the Tamil Nadu government, also cited the Blue Whale game to illustrate the dangers of social media.

“We have lost so many lives because of this game. And we still don’t know how this game originated and the people behind it. This is a very serious matter,” he said.

The AG, who also appeared for the central government in a connected matter, was responding to transfer petitions filed by social media giant Facebook, which also owns WhatsApp, in the wake of various petitions on Aadhaar-social media linkage pending across high courts of Bombay, Odisha and Madras.

Appearing for Facebook and WhatsApp, senior lawyers Mukul Rohatgi and Kapil Sibal contended that the Supreme Court should transfer to itself all the petitions on the issue so that they are not subjected to diverse orders that might be taken by different high courts.

The lawyers said this was an international issue, and that since the subject was essentially a policy matter, high courts should not interfere unless the central government takes a view.

“The central government is already looking into this. Before the Madras High Court, the Centre has taken a stand that they are contemplating certain guidelines in the matter. We don’t want different high courts to issue all kinds of directives to us,” they added.

WhatsApp also said their messaging involved end-to-end encryption and it was not possible for them to access the content.

Venugopal, on the other hand, maintained that knowing the originator of every single message, especially in criminal cases, is “essential for our survival”.

The bench also observed that a “dark web” is perhaps more dangerous than a game like Blue Whale but at the same time, Justice Gupta observed, there should be certain safeguards and conditions for sharing such information.

While the AG pressed for letting the high courts decide first, Sibal and Rohatgi said their orders would create more confusion. The bench then formally issued notices to the Centre and also to Google, Twitter and YouTube on the transfer petitions and fixed the matter for hearing on September 2.

It also allowed the Madras HC to proceed with the case there but said the high court should not pass any final order.