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SC Dismisses Plea Seeking Social Media- Aadhaar Linkage To Remove 'Fake' Accounts To Curb 'Fake News'

Nilashish Chaudhary
26 May 2020 2:17 PM GMT
SC Dismisses Plea Seeking Social Media- Aadhaar Linkage To Remove Fake Accounts To Curb Fake News
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The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a petition filed by BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay seeking the linkage of Aadhar with social media accounts, as an attempt to eliminate fake accounts.

A 3-judge Bench comprising of Justices L Nageswara Rao, Krishna Murari and S Ravindra Bhat refused to interfere with the Delhi High Court's December 2019 judgment whereby a Division Bench had also refused to entertain the plea.

"We see no reason to interfere with the impugned order of the High Court. The Special Leave Petition is, accordingly, dismissed. However, liberty is granted to the petitioner to file impleadment application in Transfer Case (Civil) No.5/2020",held the Top Court.

The Petitioner had pointed out that in the impugned order, the High Court had failed to appreciate that there existed a total of around 35 million twitter handles in India and approximately 350 million Facebook accounts of which, according to experts, around 10% twitter handles (3.5 million) and 10% Facebook accounts (35 million) are fake.

Arguing this point while appearing in person through virtual conferencing today, Upadhyay argued that social media accounts do have a deep impact on the minds of the common man, who finds it very difficult to distinguish fake and real accounts.

It was further submitted that fake news, which may be created and propagated by fake, duplicate or ghost accounts shapes opinion and even plays "a vitiating role in the context of free and fair elections".

These bogus accounts, alleged Upadhyay, are also used for proliferation of fake news which is the root cause of many riots, including the recent riots in Delhi.

In this light, it was urged that since Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution enables the State to impose reasonable restrictions on free speech in the interest of national and international security, it is duty of the State to take appropriate steps to weed-out fake, duplicate and ghost social media accounts.

The Delhi High Court had earlier refused to entertain this plea by holding that linkage of Social media accounts with Aadhar or any other identification proof was a matter of government policy.

"This exercise of drafting of a policy or amendment in the law or appreciation of the report of the Law Commission for linkage of AADHAR/PAN/Voter ID details with social media, all pertains to policy decision to be taken by the respondents. We are not inclined to give any direction to the respondents since Union of India is already deliberating upon this issue, as submitted by learned counsel for the Union of India," it had held.

While disposing of this plea, the Supreme Court did however grant Upadhyay liberty to file an impleadment application in another matter concerning the linkage of Aadhar with social media platforms, which is now pending before the Supreme Court. In that matter, the Top Court had ordered the transfer of all pending cases from various High Courts to itself. In the last hearing in that matter, on January 30, 2020, a Bench headed by Justice LN Rao had directed the Madras High Court to send all records related to the matter to the Supreme Court at the earliest.    

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