The Tamil Nadu Government has moved the Supreme Court seeking to allow the Madras High Court to continue hearing in the matter relating to social media companies including Facebook sharing information on criminals with police. The state has sought the top court modify its order to continue the hearing in the High Court.

On August 20, the Supreme Court issued a notice to the Centre and social media entities Twitter, Google and YouTube on Facebook’s plea, seeking their response on whether to transfer all cases from three High Courts to itself to decide whether social networking sites should be compelled to share information pertaining to criminals with police.

The top court has listed the matter for further hearing on September 13. It, however, had not stayed proceedings in the High Courts but refrained them from passing any final order. Facebook has sought the transfer of cases, saying it would serve the interests of justice by avoiding the possibility of conflicting decisions from the High Courts.

When the matter came up for the hearing in the Madras High Court on August 21, it deferred it till September 19, observing that the Supreme Court is seized of the matter. The Tamil Nadu government, in its plea, said that the top court had not stayed the proceedings in the high courts.

“The Transfer Petition filed before this court is replete with false and misleading averments, in a blatant attempt to misguide this court for oblique motives. While the Transfer Petition proceeds on the sole premise that the cases in the Madras High Court relate to mandatory linking of social media accounts with Aadhaar, it was a matter of record that the Court was only proceeding to ensure effective compliance with the Information Technology Act, 2000 and the Rules framed thereunder, and also for the perception and detection of crimes,” it said.

The government said that Facebook has moved its application as social media companies are unwilling to co-operate in sharing information with police. “Being aware of this non-compliance and failure to cooperate with the law enforcement authorities by the petitioner and other companies, the High Court has proceeded to create a consultative process wherein stake-holders are heard and a satisfactory resolution can be reached, and that originator information can be traced by the authorities,” it added.

The Tamil Nadu government also said that the matter is on final hearing in the Madras High Court. In the absence of expeditious disposal of the instant matter, foreign social media companies would continue to operate in the country without complying with Indian laws, it said in its petition, adding that this would increased lawlessness and difficulty in preventing and detecting crimes.

It added that the proceedings before the Bombay High Court and Madhya Pradesh High Court at very nascent stage and thus there is no imminent possibility of conflicting orders being passed apart from the fact that these petitions operate in different spheres with no overlap whatsoever.

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