"People have grave apprehensions about loss of privacy. You may be a 2 or 3 trillion-dollar company, but people value their privacy more than your money," said a bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and V.Ramasubramanian told WhatsApp counsel and made it clear that "it is the court's duty to protect people's privacy".
The Chief Justice replied, we will issue notice in the matter.
Senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Arvind Datar, appearing for WhatsApp, strongly contested Divan's argument, saying that the high court is already seized of the matter.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, said the right to privacy is a fundamental right and they cannot be compromised with the privacy of people.
After a detailed hearing in the matter, the top court issued notices to WhatsApp, Facebook and the Centre in the matter and fixed further hearing after four weeks.
The Bench also said it will have to consider if a similar petition, pending before the Delhi High Court, is maintainable when a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court is already seized with the matter.
The instant plea was filed by the Internet Freedom Foundation in the case Karmanya Singh Sareen & Anr. v. Union of India & Ors., which is a petition filed in 2017 raising privacy concerns following the merger of Facebook and WhatsApp. In January 2017, the Supreme Court had referred the Facebook-WhatsApp privacy case to a five-judge bench.
(with inputs from agencies)