SC seeks WhatsApp response on plea seeking non-sharing of UPI data

(IANS) The Supreme Court on Monday asked WhatsApp to file its response on a plea seeking a direction to the NPCI and the RBI to ensure that data collected on Unified Payments Interface (UPI) platforms is not shared with their parent company or any other third party under any circumstances.

Senior advocate Krishna Venugopal, appearing for petitioner, Rajya Sabha member Binoy Viswam, submitted before a bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde that in the previous hearing, the court had asked the company if Israeli sypware Pegasus has breached their systems.

Venugopal cited that it was wrongly stated this issue was not pleaded in the petition and added that till date, Facebook and WhatsApp have not filed a counter-affidavit in the matter.

He said that his client’s petition has been pending for months, and the top court should ask Facebook and WhatsApp to file a counter-affidavit.

The bench, also comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian, noted that if WhatsApp does not file the reply, then the averment made by the petitioner will be taken as accepted.

Several interlocutory applications have been filed in the plea. These applications seek direction to frame regulation to ensure that data collected on UPI platforms is not exploited.

Senior advocate Arvind Datar, representing WhatsApp India, contended before the court that no formal notice has been issued to it in the plea for impleadment in the matter.

Senior advocate V. Giri, representing the RBI, submitted that the Central bank has already filed its reply in the matter. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, also appearing for WhatsApp, submitted that his client has received all necessary permissions.

The top court observed that the plea should be tagged with similar plea pending and asked the Centre to file an affidavit in the issue connected with spyware. Concluding the hearing in the matter, the bench told WhatsApp counsel that pleas challenging its new privacy policy are pending before the court.

The bench has scheduled the matter for further hearing after four weeks.

The Reserve Bank of India has told the Supreme Court that the National Payment Corporation of India (NPCI) allowed WhatsApp to “go live” on UPI only after ensuring it was fully compliant with its circular.

The central bank also stressed the onus is on the NPCI to respond on the status of compliance of WhatsApp, Google and Amazon with the system rules/procedural guidelines governing the Unified Payments Interface (UPI).

In an affidavit, seeking dismissal of Viswam’s plea, the RBI said: “NPCI is the system provider of UPI and, therefore, comes under the regulatory radar of the RBI. Since it was NPCI that allowed Amazon, Google and WhatsApp to operate under UPI, the responsibility to ensure that these entities comply with all the rules/regulations/ guidelines governing UPI lies with the NPCI.”

Viswam, in the plea, sought protection of data of transactions made over UPI. He contended that the RBI and the NPCI instead of fulfilling their statutory obligations are compromising the interest of Indian users by allowing the non-compliant foreign entities to operate its payment services in India. The plea seeks response from the RBI and the NPCI to ensure that the data of Indian citizens collected on UPI platforms was not misused by WhatsApp, Google and Amazon.

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