New Delhi: The Supreme Court today agreed to examine a plea alleging that WhatsApp does not comply with the Indian laws including the provision for appointing a grievance officer.
Seeking the response of the Centre and the instant messaging platform on the plea, a bench of Justices R F Nariman and Indu Malhotra issued notice to the Centre and the WhatsApp on a plea filed by an NGO, Centre for Accountability and Systemic Change (CASC), which also sought to restrain the platform from proceeding with its payment service unless it fully complied with the provisions of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). The top court asked the parties to file their replies within four weeks.
WhatsApp reportedly has over 200 million users in India and almost one million people are “testing” its payments service. India is one of the largest bases for the Facebook-owned company that has over 1.5 billion users globally. In its plea, the CASC said that to open a bank account, a customer needs to comply with KYC norms laid down by the RBI and various other formalities.
“WhatsApp is a foreign company with no office or servers in India. To run Payments Service in India, WhatsApp is obligated to have its office and payments in India.
“Moreover, it is also required to have a Grievance Officer for users in India. Yet, it is being allowed to continue with its Payments and other services, without any check,” the plea claimed.
The petition also alleged that the social media giant does not comply with tax and other laws of India, but its reach was such that it is used by everyone, be it a commoner or even the judges of the apex court. The plea, filed through advocate Virag Gupta, said that every user has a number on WhatsApp but the messaging platform has no number through which its user can contact it for any grievance redressal.
Pointing to rumours about various internet-based crimes, it claimed that the growth of such incidents was directly proportional to the growth of the user base of messaging services like WhatsApp.
“Companies like Facebook Inc. and Google Inc. have appointed Grievance Officer for users in India, but WhatsApp has not. However, the Grievance Officer of Facebook sits in Ireland and the Grievance Officer of Google sits in USA and are thus rendered ineffective.
“In order to make Respondent No. 6 (WhatsApp) accountable, it must be directed to comply with Indian Law and appoint Grievance Officer, who shall be the person to address grievance of consumers, as well as co-ordinate with investigating agencies,” the petition said.