The Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi on Thursday granted two weeks’ time to Trinamool Congress MLA Mahua Moitra to furnish evidentiary materials in support of her claims that the endeavour of the Centre to monitor various social media platforms to gauge the response to the Aadhaar project amounts to unwarranted surveillance.
“If every single tweet or WhatsApp message is monitored, we will be moving towards becoming a surveillance state”, Justice D. Y. Chandrachud had remarked on July 13, as the bench of the then-Chief Justice Dipak Misra had agreed to hear the PIL filed by Ms. Moitra, challenging as being in the teeth of Article 14, 19(1)(a) and 21, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry’s proposal to monitor social media movements.
It may be noted that on August 3, the Union had communicated its decision to drop the idea for a Social Media Communication Hub and withdraw its earlier Request for Proposal (RPF). The project was intended to monitor the individuals’ WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook and even email accounts so as to extend valuable feedback to the government in instilling nationalistic feelings and influencing public opinion.
At the previous hearing on September 11, Attorney General K. K. Venugopal had conveyed to the Court the willingness to incorporate the suggestions of Ms. Moitra in the fresh bid invited by the UIDAI to create a social media wing for surveilling online people’s reactions to the Aadhaar and tackling negative sentiments.
On the last occasion, Senior Counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing on behalf of the petitioner, brought to the attention of the court that the corrigendum to the second RPF is not available on the relevant website and that none of the changes suggested have been notified. “The only change is that now it says ‘minimum one lakh people’...minimum, not maximum”, he advanced.
When the AG agreed to file the Centre’s response on a comprehensive affidavit incorporating the changes, Dr. Singhvi said that he is “grateful”.
The bench had proceeded to record that the changes suggested by the petitioner should be accomodated before deferring the matter.