The Delhi High Court on Monday refused to pass any directions to the Centre on a plea seeking to formulate a policy related to linking social media accounts of individuals with Aadhaar and other identification proofs to weed out fake and ghost accounts.
A division bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and C Hari Shankar left over the central government to decide over any policy required to frame on this issue. The court observed that to weed out the around 18 and 20 per cent fake and ghost account, date related to Aadhaar, Voter Id card, PAN card and other identification proof of 80 per cent genuine account holders will go to a foreign country.
“If such type of direction for linkage of Aadhaar, PAN or Voter ID is ordered by the court, there may be a situation where data of genuine account holder (who are 80 per cent of the total) will also go in a foreign country, which may be unnecessary,” the court said.
The Centre apprised the court that the government is under consideration and also got some suggestions from law commission on this regard.
The court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by advocate Ashwini Upadhyay seeking direction to the Centre to take appropriate steps to link social media accounts with Aadhaar, PAN, voter ID card or any other identification proof to weed out fake and duplicate accounts and to control fake and paid news which may affect the election process.
The plea, also sought direction to the central government to declare that the publication of ‘paid news’ and political advertisements during the last 48 hours before polls is a “corrupt practise” under Section 123(4) in The Representation of the People Act, 1951.
“The publication of fake news involves the use of black money, under-reporting of election expenses of political parties and candidates and indulging in other kinds of malpractices. The influence of black money also has the potential to result in an imbalanced election between people of different financial statures,” the plea claimed.
“Thus, in order to have free and fair elections, which is a basic dictum of democracy, the level playing field is paramount and this cannot be achieved without mitigating the instances of fake news,” the petition added.
Upadhyay, through his plea, sought Centre’s direction to take appropriate steps for deactivation of fake, duplicate and ghost social media accounts.
The plea claimed that the hundreds of fake Twitter handle and bogus Facebook accounts in the name of eminent peoples and high dignitaries including the President, Vice President, Prime Minister, Chief Ministers, Cabinet Ministers, Chief Justice of India and the judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts.
“These fake Twitter handles and bogus Facebook accounts use the real photos of the constitutional authorities and eminent people,” the petitioner said.
The plea stated that fake and paid news prevents the free exercise of the right to vote due to the use of money and muscle power by candidates.
“It affects the rights of the ordinary citizens to get elected and puts them at a great disadvantage due to reduced win-ability factor as an independent. Use of fake and paid news is arbitrary and unfair because it invites and enables people with criminal backgrounds to buy tickets from national and state recognised political parties and contest elections,” the petitioner claimed.
“A person convicted of rape, extortion, kidnapping and murder can come back into the electoral arena. A person guilty of corruption and terrorism can also become a candidate of national and state recognised parties. Take the case of 2G, CWG and Coalgate. The accused are coming back to the election arena through national or state recognised parties. Would they not affect the elections with money and muscle power, offsetting the valuable freedom to vote without fear or favour?” the plea added.
Upadhyay said that the principle of one man, one vote is based on the freedom to vote in a fair election, which is impossible without weeding out fake accounts.