Set­ting up of so­cial me­dia hub is like sur­veil­lance state: SC

The top court seeks Cen­tre’s re­sponse within two weeks. Gov­ern­ment has is­sued a Re­quest For Pro­posal for a soft­ware which would do a 360 de­gree mon­i­tor­ing on all so­cial me­dia plat­forms

The Hitavada - - FRONT PAGE -

THE Supreme Court on Fri­day asked the Gov­ern­ment whether its move to cre­ate a So­cial Me­dia Hub was to tap peo­ple’s What­sApp mes­sages, observing that it will be like cre­at­ing a “sur­veil­lance state”.

The top court agreed to hear a PIL filed by a Tri­namool Con­gress leg­is­la­tor from West Ben­gal, rais­ing the ques­tion whether the Gov­ern­ment wants to tap the cit­i­zens’ mes­sages on WhasApp or other so­cial me­dia plat­forms.

A bench of Chief Jus­tice Di­pak Misra and Jus­tices A M Khan­wilkar and D Y Chan­drachud sought the Cen­tre’s re­sponse on the plea by TMC MLA Mahua Moitra and sought At­tor­ney Gen­eral K KVenu­gopal’s as­sis­tance in the mat­ter.

“Does the Gov­ern­ment want to tap its cit­i­zens’ What­sApp mes­sages? It will be like cre­at­ing a sur­veil­lance state,” the bench said.

Jus­tice Chan­drachud said that if the Gov­ern­ment was seek­ing to mon­i­tor “ev­ery sin­gle tweet and What­sApp mes­sages, then we will be mov­ing to­wards be­com­ing a sur­veil­lance state.”

Se­nior ad­vo­cate A M Singhvi, ap­pear­ing for Moitra, said that the Gov­ern­ment has is­sued a Re­quest For Pro­posal (RFP) and the ten­der will be opened on Au­gust 20 for a soft­ware which would do a 360 de­gree mon­i­tor­ing on all so­cial me­dia plat­forms like What­sApp, Twit­ter, In­sta­gram and track e-mail con­tents.

“They want to mon­i­tor so­cial me­dia con­tent with the help of this so­cial me­dia hub,” Singhvi said, adding that the RFP vi­o­lated fun­da­men­tal Right to Pri­vacy and Ar­ti­cles 14, 19(1)(a) and 21 of the Con­sti­tu­tion.

The bench then listed the mat­ter on Au­gust 3, be­fore the open­ing of ten­der on Au­gust 20, and di­rected that the AG or any law of­fi­cer for the Gov­ern­ment will as­sist the court in the mat­ter.

On June 18, the apex court had re­fused to ac­cord ur­gent hear­ing

on the plea seek­ing to stay the Min­istry’s move to set up a ‘So­cial Me­dia Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Hub’ (SMCH) that would col­lect and an­a­lyse dig­i­tal and so­cial me­dia con­tent. The plea, filed through ad­vo­cate Nizam Pasha, said “the im­pugned RFP in­vites pro­pos­als to se­lect a bid­der for the Sup­ply, In­stal­la­tion, Test­ing and Com­mis­sion­ing (SITC) of soft­ware to SMCH of Min­istry of In­for­ma­tion and Broad­cast­ing and pro­vi­sion of ser­vice and sup­port for func­tion, op­er­a­tion and main­te­nance of SMCH “.

In May this year, the Broad­cast En­gi­neer­ing Con­sul­tants India Lim­ited (BECIL), a Pub­lic Sec­tor Un­der­tak­ing un­der the min­istry, had floated a ten­der to sup­ply a soft­ware for the project.

The leg­is­la­tor from Karim­pur con­stituency of West Ben­gal said that the SMCH “is be­ing set up with the clear ob­jec­tive of sur­veil­lance of ac­tiv­i­ties of in­di­vid­u­als such as her­self on so­cial me­dia plat­forms”. In her plea, she said that such in­tru­sive ac­tion on part of the Gov­ern­ment was “not only with­out the au­thor­ity of law, but brazenly in­fringes” her fun­da­men­tal right to free­dom of speech un­der Ar­ti­cle 19(1)(a) of the Con­sti­tu­tion and vi­o­lated her right of pri­vacy. “That be­ing so, the im­pugned RFP along with its ad­denda and cor­ri­genda de­serves to be quashed and set aside as be­ing ar­bi­trary, il­le­gal and un­con­sti­tu­tional,” her plea said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.