SC rules against requiring Google PIN location sharing as bail condition to protect privacy

The bench also relaxed a bail condition that required the foreign accused to obtain an assurance from his Embassy that they would not leave India.
Supreme Court of India
Supreme Court of IndiaFile Photo | PTI

NEW DELHI: In a significant ruling, the Supreme Court on Monday said that it was not permissible for courts to order an accused to share his Google pin location with the authorities as a condition to grant bail.

This order would protect the accused's privacy when they would be enlarged on bail in a case.

Justice Abhay S Oka and Justice Ujjal Bhuyan,in their verdict said that there can't be bail conditions defeating the very objective of bail. There can't be a bail condition enabling the police to constantly track the movement of the accused persons (while on bail).

The apex court set aside the bail condition imposed by the Delhi HC, requiring the accused to share the Google Maps PIN in his mobile device with the investigating officer, when the accused is enlarged on bail.

While noting that there cannot be bail conditions that defeat the purpose of granting bail, the bench also relaxed a bail condition that required the foreign accused to obtain an assurance from his Embassy that they would not leave India.

The top court pronounced the order, after hearing an appeal filed by the Prosecution, against an order of the bail granted by the Delhi HC to an accused – a Nigerian citizen Frank vitus VS NCB -- in a case registered under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.

The top court was examining whether a bail condition requiring an accused to drop a pin on Google Maps for the investigating officer to access his location violates a person's right to privacy.

Supreme Court of India
Location sharing of accused as bail condition: SC directs Google to explain how its PIN location-sharing work

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 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 working of the Google PIN, we are issuing a notice to Google India.

The Apex Court also had earlier observed that when once an accused has been enlarged on bail by courts with the conditions set by it, it might be improper to know and track his or hers whereabouts, as it might led to hampering their right to privacy.

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