A petition in the Madras High Court seeking to link the Aadhaar number with an individual’s social media account has been amended, possibly aiding the Tamil Nadu government’s recent request to the Supreme Court to dismiss a transfer petition by Facebook.
Antony Clement Rubin, who had filed the Public Interest Litigation, submitted a request on Thursday to amend his original petition such that any government-approved identity could be used to verify an individual using social media accounts, instead of linking them to Aadhaar, the unique identity number.
In his petition last year, Clement had sought to mandate linking of Aadhaar or any one of the government authorized identity proofs to authenticate individuals using social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter, among others.
In the amended petition, Rubin has sought the removal of any mention of “Aadhaar”, and instead to reflect “any government approved or authorized identities.” ET has access to a copy of the amendment request.
The Tamil Nadu government, in a recent request to the Supreme Court, said it was not particularly concerned with Aadhaar linkage. The case, it said, primarily related to prevention of crime and ensuring traceability of information to counter fake news in the State.
The amendment petition, therefore, assumes significance as it could be seen as likely supporting the state’s stance on the matter.
Technology leader Facebook had moved the top court to transfer the case to itself for a final decision.
To be sure, this is not the only petition on the matter, and other identical petitions to link Aadhaar with social media accounts have been filed in the Madhya Pradesh and Bombay High Courts, which will be heard in the Supreme Court.
“This may help the Tamil Nadu government’s request, because now there is more ground to de-link the case from the Supreme Court if the Aadhaar linkage is gone. It might help the state decide on the case independently,” a person familiar with the development said.
A Supreme Court Bench led by Justice Deepak Gupta, after seeking Tamil Nadu’s response, had earlier restrained the Madras High Court from passing any ‘effective orders’ in the case, while allowing hearings to continue in the High Court.
“The response of the Tamil Nadu government is in line with the objective of keeping things within their control as law and order is a state subject, and by de-linking the case, the state government gets support for its stand to decide the case locally,” said Salman Waris, Managing Partner at Delhi-based specialist technology law firm TechLegis Advocates & Solicitors.
The scope of the case has since been expanded to include intermediary liability of social media companies, ensuring more privacy for users and better prevention mechanisms of cybercrime.