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Court for balancing right to privacy with preventing crime, fake news

The Supreme Court on Tuesday stressed the need to find a balance between the right to online privacy and the right of the State to detect people who use the web to spread panic and commit crimes.

A Bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Ghose expressed concern over the dangers of the dark web. “Though I do not know how to access it, I have heard about the dark goings-on in the dark web. It is worse than what happens [in the service web],” Justice Gupta said.

The Bench’s comments were in response to submissions by Attorney General K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the Tamil Nadu government along with advocate Balaji Srinivasan, about the need to link social media profiles of registered users with their Aadhaar numbers, and if required, have platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp share the 12-digit unique identity with law enforcement agencies to help detect crimes.

Mr. Venugopal argued, “The linking of social media profiles with Aadhaar is needed to check fake news, defamatory articles, pornographic materials and anti-national and terror contents in the online media.”

He said the government found it a challenge to trace the ‘originator’ of such online content. The services of social media platforms, which were used to circulate such content, was the need of the hour. “We do not have the mechanism to find out the originator... We cannot have people commit crimes.”

Senior advocates Mukul Rohatgi and Kapil Sibal, representing social media platforms, said they had moved the Supreme Court for the sole purpose of transferring the proceedings pending in High Courts to the apex court for adjudication.

Multiple cases

Facebook contended that there were four petitions — two in the Madras High Court and one each in the Bombay and the Madhya Pradesh High Courts — on the issue. Mr. Rohatgi said Mr. Venugopal was unnecessarily delving into the merits of the case and he should only argue on the question of transfer.

The court, as the highest court in the country, and not the High Courts, should decide the issue that affected the privacy of an online user. A decision of the top court would cover the entire span of the country and would uniformly apply to all the States, he said.

There was a risk that the High Courts might arrive at conflicting decisions on the issue. It would be better to have the Supreme Court take the final call. The Tamil Nadu police were saying that Aadhaar should be used for linking user profiles, he said. “They cannot tell us how to run our platforms. We have end-to-end encryption on WhatsApp and even we do not have access to the content. How can we tell them what is the Aadhaar number? We also have to take care of the privacy of the users,” he stated.

Mr. Sibal said a decision of the Indian courts would have global ramifications.

Both lawyers pointed out that a nine-judge Constitution Bench had declared privacy as a fundamental right associated with life and dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution.

Mr. Venugopal asked why social media platforms have decided to approach the Supreme Court at this point of time.

Remarks indicate India’s stand before publication of final list

S. Jaishankar speaking to journalists on his arrival in Dhaka on Monday. PTIPTI

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) process, now under way in Assam, is internal to India, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said on Tuesday in Dhaka.

Addressing a press conference after meeting his counterpart A.K. Abdul Momen, Mr. Jaishankar said, “It’s an internal matter.” He was responding to a question on the future of more than four million people likely to be affected by the process.

His statement is significant as it indicates India’s official position just days before the final NRC list is to be published on August 31. In July, Mr. Momen had expressed concern about the possible fallout of the final list on Bangladesh. More recently, on August 7, Union Home Minister Amit Shah held a meeting with his Bangladesh counterpart Asaduzzaman Khan in Delhi.

The event raised eyebrows as no joint statement was issued after the meeting, indicating some differences on key issues.

ED officials at P. Chidambaram’s residence in New Delhi. Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Teams of the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate reached the Jorbagh residence of former Union Minister P. Chidambaram on Tuesday to arrest him in the INX Media case, soon after the Delhi High Court rejected his application for anticipatory bail. However, he was not there.

Late at night, the CBI pasted a notice on the wall outside Mr. Chidambaram’s house, asking him to appear before the probe team within two hours of the receipt of summons.

The agency is also learnt to have sent the summons through email.

Moon mission crosses a milestone

The orbiter goes around the moon in a pole-to-pole ellipse of 114 km x 18,072 km.

A nerve-wracking 30-minute manoeuvre performed from the Indian Space Research Organization’s Mission Operations Complex here on Tuesday ensured that Chandrayaan-2, the Indian lunar lander-rover spacecraft, slid precisely into its planned orbit around its destination: the moon.

The Lunar Orbit Insertion was carried out at 9.02 a.m. from the ISRO Telemetry, Tracking and Command Network (ISTRAC).

It was a major milestone, K. Sivan, Chairman of ISRO, said at a media briefing after the event.

Around 9 a.m., a precise LOI [Lunar Orbit Insertion] manoeuvre was carried out for about 30 minutes to inject Chandrayaan-2 perfectly into the defined orbit,” Dr. Sivan said. The spacecraft now goes around the moon in a pole-to-pole ellipse of 114 km x 18,072 km. Now that the orbiter is in place, the focus will shift to the Vikram lander riding on top with the small rover inside its belly.

Dr. Sivan said, “We will now have four lunar burns starting tomorrow [Wednesday] at 1 p.m., followed by subsequent burns on August 28, August 30 and September 1. The orbit of Chandrayaan-2 will be reduced gradually from the present 18,072 km to make it orbit moon in a circle from a distance of around 100 km by September 1.”

He said the next major event was slated for September 2. On that day the lander is due to separate from the orbiter and start descending towards the lunar surface – like “a bridegroom separating from his parental home and entering the bride’s home.”

Ratul Puri

The Enforcement Directorate has arrested Ratul Puri, nephew of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, in connection with the money-laundering probe into an alleged bank loan fraud case involving ₹354.51 crore.

Mr. Puri was produced before a city court that granted his six-day custody to the ED.

The arrest was made late on Monday on the basis of a First Information Report (FIR) registered last week by the Central Bureau of Investigation against Moser Baer India Limited (MBIL) and others.

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