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Terrorists can't claim right to privacy: Centre

Terrorists can
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Right to privacy can't be a ruse to perpetrate terror activities, the Central government submitted in the Supreme Court on Tuesday while advocating for stricter regulations of intermediaries such as Facebook and WhatsApp.

New Delhi: Right to privacy can't be a ruse to perpetrate terror activities, the Central government submitted in the Supreme Court on Tuesday while advocating for stricter regulations of intermediaries such as Facebook and WhatsApp.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told a bench headed by Justice Deepak Gupta that the government is completely against invading anyone's privacy, but this cannot become a subterfuge for terrorists.

"We are all for right to privacy. But this has to be balanced with national security, sovereignty of the country. Can a terrorist claim to right to privacy? Should terror activities be protected in the guise of privacy? I can't think so," Mehta said.

Attorney General KK Venugopal, who represents Tamil Nadu government in the batch of cases relating to social media norms, supported Mehta. "What rights of privacy terrorists have? They can't be protected," Venugopal said.

The submissions by the law officers came as Internet Freedom Association argued before the bench that the social media guidelines will directly impact the right to privacy and that the Supreme Court may not pre-empt the issue by passing any order even before the new norms have not seen the light of the day. The court, meanwhile, ordered for transfer of all petitions relating to intermediaries' liability to itself on a plea made by Facebook Inc and WhatsApp.

The social media giants, through senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, had pressed for a final adjudication in these matters by the highest court of the land instead of various high courts dealing with it in a piecemeal manner. During the hearing, the issue of traceability of originators of messages and corresponding liability of the intermediaries also came up.

The bench questioned the AG and SG if any legal obligation is cast upon the intermediaries to share these information and decrypt messages, posts etc. According to the bench, the Information Technology Act and the pertinent rules talked about their assisting the law enforcement agencies, but the question was if they are legally bound to also decrypt messages and furnish such information.

Venugopal submitted that Facebook and WhatsApp should not have entered India if they were incapable of decrypting messages and that the law prohibits them from using such technology.

SG Mehta, on the other hand, cited the government's affidavit, saying the new guidelines should be ready for being notified in the next three months.Rohatgi also said that they would want to wait to see the new guidelines before arguing the matter finally. The bench then adjourned the case to the last week in January while allowing the transfer petition files by Facebook Inc over a case pending before the Madras High Court.

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