Delhi HC notice to Centre on Whatsapp, Facebook pleas challenging IT Rules requiring 'tracing' origin of messages

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Representative Image

New Delhi [India], August 27 (ANI): Delhi High Court on Friday issued notice to Centre on WhatsApp and Facebook pleas challenging IT Rules, 2021 on the ground that the new set of rules would require messaging services to "trace" the origin of particular messages sent on the services.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh asked the Centre to file a reply on Facebook and Whatsapp pleas and listed the matter for October 22 as the next date of hearing.

WhatsApp has earlier moved the Delhi High Court challenging against Central government recently imposed IT Rules that would require messaging services to "trace" the origin of particular messages sent on the service.

WhatsApp through its statement said "Requiring messaging apps to 'trace' chats is the equivalent of asking us to keep a fingerprint of every single message sent on WhatsApp, which would break end-to-end encryption and fundamentally undermines people's right to privacy."

WhatsApp spokesperson said, "We have consistently joined civil society and experts around the world in opposing requirements that would violate the privacy of our users."

"In the meantime, we will also continue to engage with the Government of India on practical solutions aimed at keeping people safe, including responding to valid legal requests for the information available to us," stated Whatsapp.

Rule 4 sub-rule 2 of the newly enforced Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021 states that a significant social media intermediary providing services primarily in the nature of messaging shall enable the identification of the first originator of the information on its computer resource as may be required by a judicial order passed by a court of competent jurisdiction or order passed under section 69 by the Competent Authority as per the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for the interception, monitoring, and decryption of information) Rules, 2009, which shall be supported with a copy

of such information in electronic form.

Provided that order shall only be passed for the purposes of prevention, detection, investigation, prosecution or punishment of an offence related to the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign states, or public order, or of incitement to an offence relating to the above or in relation with rape, sexually explicit material or child sexual abuse material, punishable with imprisonment for a term of not less than five years

Provided further that no order shall be passed in cases where other less intrusive means are

effective in identifying the originator of the information:

Provided also that in complying with an order for identification of the first originator, no

significant social media intermediary shall be required to disclose the contents of any electronic message, any other information of the first originator to other users:

Provided also that where the first originator of any information is located outside the territory of India, the first originator of that information within the territory of India shall be deemed to be the first originator of the information for the purpose of this clause.

On February 25, the Centre framed the Information Technology Rules 2021, in the exercise of powers under section 87 (2) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and in supersession of the earlier Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2011, that came into effect from May 26.

The new guidelines issued by the government of India mandated a grievance redressal system for over the top (OTT) and digital portals in the country.

Briefing the media about the new rules on February 25, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had said that though the government welcomes criticism and the right to dissent, "but it is very important for the users of social media to have a forum to raise their grievance against the misuse of social media.

"Under the new rules, social media platforms will have to have a grievance redressal mechanism, they will also have to name a grievance officer who shall register the grievance within 24 hours and disposal in 15 days.

The government had said that if there are complaints against the dignity of users, particularly women - about exposed private parts of individuals or nudity or sexual act or impersonation, etc - social media platforms will be required to remove that within 24 hours after a complaint is made. (ANI)

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