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Background

  • The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology had given a 3 month time to the social platforms, including WhatsApp to comply with the new IT rules passed in February 2021.
  • A Public Interest Litigation was filed by a software engineer, Omanakuttan K. G. seeking directions to the Central Government to ban WhatsApp if it continues non-compliance with the IT rules, 2021.
  • The PIL was admitted before the Bench of Hon’ble Justice S. Manikumar and Justice ShajiChaly who have posted the matter for further hearing on June 28th, 2021.

Petitioner’s Contentions

  • The Petitioner submitted that the Centre had taken steps to ban similar applications for acting against national interest on previous occasions and that similar should be done in this case if WhatsApp failed to revise its technology or to cooperate with the Government.
  • The Petition claimed that there was a wide scope of manipulation at the user end and it was not viable to trace the origin of the message being circulated on the platform.
  • The Petition stated that the App’s updated privacy policy openly mentions that the App will store, access, and use several personal data of its users, including battery remaining on their devices, which is a violation of their right to privacy.
  • The Petition also claims the App lacks security and that any layman can manipulate any message and use it to cause unrest among the people. It pointed out that such instances give the anti-national elements to send messages and retrieve information and due to its end-to-end encryption which is a deviation from the IT rules, the origin of such messages cannot be traced thus letting the criminal walk scot-free.
  • The Counsels appearing for the Petitioner, Advocate M. Vivek, Arun Ashok Iyyani, and Neena James contended that WhatsApp violates the fundamental rights of the citizens guaranteed under Article 21 and alleged that the software posed a great threat to the national interest and security.
  • The Petition also brought forward an interesting fact that WhatsApp had implemented a separate privacy policy in Europe in compliance with their laws and yet refused to comply with Indian laws which is a glaring incongruity.

Questions raised in the Petition

  • Whether a corporate entity and its App can be allowed to function in the country despite having the potential to cause a threat to the sovereignty, integrity, and security of the country?
  • Whether WhatsApp can be permitted to function despite the lack of security, violation of fundamental rights, and wide scope of misuse?
  • Whether a corporate entity can be allowed to bypass the law in the country on false claims?

What do you think of this case?

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