Supreme Court: Google Pin Location as Bail Condition Infringes Right to Privacy under Article 21

The Supreme Court, in Frank Vitus v. Narcotics Control Bureau, criticizes bail condition requiring Google pin sharing, citing privacy concerns under Article 21. Vinay Navare serves as amicus curiae. Case arose from Delhi HC's interim bail order for drug case accused.

The Supreme Court, led by Justices Abhay S Oka and Ujjal Bhuyan, recently addressed the issue of sharing Google pin locations as a bail condition, highlighting concerns about privacy rights under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

The Court expressed reservations about such a requirement, stating, "It cannot be a bail condition." While acknowledging previous instances where the Court had imposed similar conditions, the Bench emphasized that it shouldn't be a standard practice.

Previously, the Court had directed Google India to explain how its pin location-sharing feature functions to assess whether mandating accused individuals to share their locations would infringe upon their privacy rights. The Court clarified that Google India was not being made a party to the case but was merely being asked for information.

After hearing from Google, the Court reserved orders on the matter of using Google pin locations as bail conditions, scheduling further hearings for July 26. Senior Advocate Vinay Navare serves as amicus curiae in the case, while Advocate Varun Mishra represents the petitioner and Additional Solicitor General Vikramjit Banerjee represents the Narcotics Control Bureau.

The case before the Supreme Court originated from an appeal against conditions set by the Delhi High Court in granting interim bail to a Nigerian national accused in a drug-related case. The High Court's conditions included dropping a pin on Google Maps to ensure the accused's location was known to the Investigation Officer. Additionally, the accused were required to obtain assurance from the Nigerian High Commission regarding their presence in India.

The Supreme Court had previously criticized these conditions and granted interim bail to the accused. Notably, in a similar case last year, another Bench led by Justice Oka had objected to a bail condition in a money-laundering case, which required the accused to continually share their location details with the police using Google pins, suggesting it could amount to surveillance.