On Monday, the Supreme Court ordered WhatsApp India, Facebook, Google Pay, Amazon Pay and the Union Government to respond to a plea seeking directives to ensure that, in all conditions, data obtained by Unified Payment Interface (UPI) networks is not exchanged with the parent company or any other third party.
A bench headed by India’s Chief Justice gave instructions to the PIL respondents filed by Rajya Sabha MP Binoy Viswam, a member of the Communist Party of India (CPI).
Senior Advocate Krishnan Venugopal, appearing for the petitioner at the brief hearing held on Monday, referred to his application on a previous stance (December 14, 2020) concerning the Pegasus dispute.
He then cited the Israeli spyware Pegasus hack of WhatsApp’s encrypted system to reason against allowing the messaging service to open its e-payment network in India (WhatsApp Pay).
Appearing for WhatsApp, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal told the bench that Pegasus had nothing to do with WhatsApp or the India Reserve Bank. Sibal further told the bench that for its launch, WhatsApp Pay had all the requisite approvals.
Arvind P Datar, Senior Counsel, told the bench that he represents WhatsApp India, which is attempting to implant itself in the case as a respondent. The senior counsel of the complainant emphasized that these internet companies did not file their counter-affidavits in the court.
The CJI-led bench then continued to direct the counter-affidavits to be filed by all respondents within four weeks. After four weeks, the case will be identified. In the situation, the Reserve Bank of India filed a counter affidavit saying that it is the duty of the National Payment Corporation of India to ensure that data security requirements are complied with by the UPI platforms.
A counter-affidavit was filed by the Reserve Bank of India in the case alleging that it is the responsibility of the Indian National Payment Company To ensure the data privacy requirements are upheld by the UPI platforms.
The bench had previously given a notice on an appeal submitted by an intervener to ensure that WhatsApp pay would not start its services without compliance with all requirements for data security.
The petition, filed by Sriram Parakkat, Advocate-on-Record, seeks “the protection of fundamental right to privacy of millions of Indian citizens who are using Unified Payments Interface (UPI)” The Supreme Court released a notice on 15 October 2020.
Taking the view that the UPI system in India is controlled and monitored by the Respondents Reserve Bank of India and the National Payments Corporation of India, the plea charges that they have failed to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities to protect and safeguard confidential user data, including their interest in enabling non-compliant overseas entities to run their payment systems in India.
The plea goes on to say that RBI and NPCI “have allowed the three members of Big Four Tech Giants’ i.e., Amazon, Google and Facebook/WhatsApp (Beta phase) to participate in the UPI ecosystem without too much scrutiny and in spite of flagrant violations of UPI directives and RBI Regulations.”
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