Is Supreme Court obliging business interests in admitting the Zoom petition?

In a Public Interest Litigation, an advocate has filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking ban on Zoom . The petition seeks a direction that the Government has to ban the use not only for the use of the Government but also for the public.

It is unfortunate that the Supreme Court has admitted the petition and sent  notices to the Government and Zoom.

So far, whenever the Supreme Court has been notified about the adverse impact of apps like TikTok or the Anti Society systems like the Bitcoin, the Supreme Court did not consider it necessary to respond in public interest. On the other hand it gave a completely anti establishment judgement in the case of Bitcoin and the CJI did not think of reviewing the decision.

However, it has now acted with alacrity to respond to the Zoom petition as if it is a great natural emergency during Covid lock down.

I wish the Judges consult some independent technology specialists who are not in the pay rolls of companies adversely affected by the popularity of Zoom.  Otherwise the credibility of the Court is likely to be severely dented.

This petition was not worth the paper on which it was printed. It ought to have been rejected even for admission with a fine. The Court however has given undue respect to the PIL and issued notices.

At the same time, the Court has failed to issue notices to all stake holders and therefore if it proceeds with the hearing of the petition, the current users of Zoom will be adversely affected. The current users of Zoom in India are also citizens of India and have their own rights to use the software of their choice.

The Supreme Court has failed to realize that there is no compulsion for any individual to use Zoom and it is the choice of the public to use Zoom or chose any other equivalent software.

Intervention of Supreme Court is therefore only serving the business interests of the competitors of Zoom which include big names like Microsoft and CISCO. It has very little public interest objective.

It is possible that the Court might have been wrongly informed  that this is a “Chinese Software” which is spying on India and this could have influenced the decision to admit the petition. This may not be the correct view since Zoom is an US Company and there is no indication that it works under the directions of the Chinese Government, as of now.

The Court might have also been given to understand that Zoom is the only software that has the vulnerabilities  and every other video conference software of Microsoft or Adobe or CISCO are security wise impregnable. This is also not correct.

The Court needs to check with security professionals how often Microsoft or Adobe products are found to have vulnerabilities, whether CISCO has been every accused of providing a backdoor to FBI etc.

Supreme Court may not be aware that Zoom provides recording of meetings as an option either on the cloud or in local computers as do others. It is a choice of the users to store it on the cloud if they want.

I would be pleasantly surprised if the advocate Wajeeh Shafiq or Harsh Chugh or their associates Nimish Chib and Divye Chugh can explain the concept of “End to End Security” and why they think Zoom’s  transmission security is inferior to other similar systems including G mail and Facebook.

The petitioner advocates need to also ki clarify whether they are talking of “Privacy Protection” or “Information Security” and how they distinguish “Personal Data Protection” and “Corporate Information Security”. They seem to be confused.

The Supreme Court should understand that vulnerabilities are part of the software development process and the only way the consumer interest is served is to make all software developers liable for zero day vulnerabilities if any consumer suffers a loss on account of such vulnerabilities. This is feasible even under our consumer protection laws .

Zoom is an intermediary under ITA 2000 and if its platform is used for commission of any offence, it can be tried under any of the provisions of ITA 2000 including hacking, denial of access etc., and Zoom will have to prove “Due Diligence”. ITA 2000 has extra territorial jurisdiction as well as a possibility of extending the liabilities to the Zoom CEO under Section 85 of ITA 2000. Zoom CEO is in USA and the Company is a US Company and hence it should not be difficult to invoke extra territorial jurisdiction if the petitioners want.

Instead of using such provisions that are already available under the ITA 2000, the petitioners are launching a speculative attack to serve the business interests of the competitors.

The petition is therefore ill conceived and it indicates that business rivals of Zoom must have encouraged this litigation or the petitioners are doing it for publicity purpose.

Supreme Court has to show maturity and maintain distance from such business related issues.


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About Vijayashankar Na

Naavi is a veteran Cyber Law specialist in India and is presently working from Bangalore as an Information Assurance Consultant. Pioneered concepts such as ITA 2008 compliance, Naavi is also the founder of Cyber Law College, a virtual Cyber Law Education institution. He now has been focusing on the projects such as Secure Digital India and Cyber Insurance
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