New India [India], September 29 (ANI): Indian users cannot be discriminated against the other users of WhatsApp, the Central government on Thursday told the Supreme Court saying that a new Data Protection Bill to safeguard citizens' rights is underway and likely to be placed before Parliament in the upcoming session.
A five-judge Constitution bench of Justices KM Joseph, Ajay Rastogi, Aniruddha Bose, Hrishikesh Roy and CT Ravikumar posted the matter for January 17, 2023.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, told the apex court that the government has already withdrawn the old data protection Bill and a new Bill will be introduced in Parliament.
"It is the stand of the government that Indian users cannot be discriminated against the other users of WhatsApp. Government of India is alive to the situation and Bill in underway," Mehta told the court while asking the bench to list the matter for hearing after the Bill is in place.
The bench said that the matter is pending for so many years and "if the government of India was keen on having a legislation it could have put it in place".
The bench asked the government to either place the Bill before the Parliament which addresses the privacy concerns of users and standards to be followed by WhatsApp or it will begin the final hearing in the case on January 17, 2023.
It ordered that by December 15, 2022 pleadings in all the cases be completed.
Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for the petitioners, told the bench that Indian users are deprived of their fundamental rights and the same platform operating in other countries, especially in the European Union, has higher standards of privacy and those standards are not prevalent in India.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for WhatsApp, told the bench that European countries have their own set of laws which are applied there and in India, the company follows the present law.
The Constitution bench was hearing the plea filed by two students -- Karmanya Singh Sareen and Shreya Sethi -- challenging the contract entered into between the two companies to provide access to calls, photographs, texts, videos and documents shared by users is a violation of their privacy and free speech. (ANI)