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Sharing Google PIN can’t be condition for bail: SC in location sharing case

The Supreme Court, in its earlier order on February 23, had asked Google India to file a detailed affidavit explaining the technical aspects of dropping a PIN in the context of putting it as a condition of granting bail to an accused person.

Screenshot 2024 04 30 094204NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday concluded the hearing in connection with the case pertaining to whether sharing a Google PIN (location) with the Investigating Officer as part of one of the bail conditions violates a person’s right to privacy.

The apex court on Monday observed that the condition of sharing Google pin location as a bail condition is hit by the right to privacy guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. “It cannot be a bail condition. We agree that there are two instances where this Court has done it, but it cannot be a condition for bail,” the Court said.

The two-judge bench of the top court, led by Justice Abhay S Oka and Ujjal Bhuyan, observed during the course of the hearing on Monday, that “sharing Google PIN can’t be a condition for bail” and finalised the date of July 26, 2024, when it would likely pass an order on the issue.

The top court made these observations while hearing an appeal filed by the prosecution against an order of bail granted by the Delhi high court to an accused—a Nigerian national (Frank vitus) vs. NCB—in a case registered under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.

The Supreme Court, in its earlier order on February 23, had asked Google India to file a detailed affidavit explaining the technical aspects of dropping a PIN in the context of putting it as a condition of granting bail to an accused person.

It is significant to note here that earlier in 2017, a nine-judge Constitution bench of the top court, in its landmark verdict, had unanimously declared that the right to privacy was a fundamental right under the Constitution.

The apex court earlier also sought the detailed affidavit from Google India and wanted to know from it about the technical aspects of it, after the Union government failed to properly apprise and explain how the Google Maps PIN works.

“The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity) has given an affidavit and has suggested that, as far as working of the Google PIN is concerned, it’s appropriate if the information is sought from Google India Pvt Ltd,” the apex court had earlier said and took this into record.

The top court clarified in its order that we are not impleading them (Google India) as a party and or respondent in the case but only for obtaining information on the workings of the Google PIN. We are issuing a notice to Google India.

During one of its hearings, the top court, however, observed and remarked that the condition of sharing a Google PIN may prima facie offend the privacy rights of the accused, as guaranteed under the Indian constitution.

The apex court had also earlier observed that once an accused has been granted bail by the courts with the conditions set by them, it might be improper to know and track his or her whereabouts, as it might hamper their right to privacy.

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