The Madras High Court released the daily order (available below) for the WhatsApp traceability case on July 5, the last hearing for which took place on June 27. The Deputy Secretary to Government, IT Department of Tamil Nadu filed a report on June 26 with details of data requests it made to social media companies — Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Google and YouTube. The social media companies were supposed to have replied to this report by July 17. The petitioner in the case, Antony Clement Rubin, told MediaNama that Facebook and WhatsApp have submitted their responses. MediaNama is awaiting confirmation on others’ response. The next hearing is on July 24, 2019. Senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Arvind Datar are expected to appear for WhatsApp.
Here are the details from the government’s report, as extracted in the daily order. Please note that the court order doesn’t mention the time period during which these requests were made.
The court had, in the last hearing, approved Internet Freedom Foundation’s (IFF) plea to act as an intervener in the ongoing case, that is now examining ways in which cybercrime might be curbed with the assistance of social media companies. The hearing had lasted for more than an hour and saw representation from the government of Tamil Nadu, TRAI, Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, and Google.
This case had originally been filed in 2018 as a PIL by Antony Clement Rubin (writ petition no. 20774/2018) and Janani Krishnamurthy (W.P. No. 20214/2018) that sought a writ mandamus (special order by court) to “declare the linking of Aadhaar or any one of the Government authorized identity proof as mandatory for the purpose of authentication while obtaining any email or user account”.
Here are the other key takeaways from the daily order:
- Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) is made an intervener in W.P. No. 20774/2018, and is permitted “to implead and assist” the court as a respondent in both the cases.
- Dr V. Kamakoti of IIT Madras will assist the Court regarding technical matters because at a meeting between social media companies and law enforcement agencies on May 22, convened at the behest of the Madras High Court, Kamakoti had suggested that WhatsApp should consider including the phone number of the originator of a message whenever a message is being forwarded, according to status report of the meeting submitted by Facebook.
- The Court directed the Tamil Nadu government to ascertain whether the Ministry of Home Affairs had provided a specific format in which state governments were to make their crime-related requests to the intermediaries. Twitter’s counsel, Senior Advocate Sajan Poovayya, had raised the issue of this format during the hearing.